NEWS, ANALYSIS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: How stable is “stability”?

Ghosts that haunt Pakistan

The legend cultivated by Pakistani politicians like Ms. Bhutto and her principal civilian rival, Nawaz Sharif, cast the generals as the main villains in stifling democracy, emerging from their barracks to grab power out of Napoleonic ambition and contempt for the will of ordinary Pakistanis. It is a version of history calculated to appeal strongly to Western opinion. But it has been carefully drawn to excuse the role the politicians themselves have played in undermining democracy, by using mandates won at the polls to establish governments that rarely amounted to much more than vehicles for personal enrichment, or for pursuing vendettas against political foes.

William Dalrymple, a British author who has written widely about India and Pakistan, put it bluntly in an article for Britain’s left-of-center Guardian newspaper in 2005. “As Pakistan shows, rigid, corrupt, unrepresentative and flawed democracies without the strong independent institutions of a civil society — a free press, an independent judiciary, an empowered election commission — can foster governments that are every bit as tyrannical as any dictatorship,” he wrote. “Justice and democracy are not necessarily synonymous.” [complete article]

Musharraf apparently riding out crisis

In the first days after the Dec. 27 attack, the already unpopular Musharraf’s grip on power seemed to hang in the balance. Riots raged for three days in Karachi, Bhutto’s hometown, and across her home province of Sindh.

Much of the fury over the killing of the former prime minister and one of the most popular politicians in the country’s history was aimed directly at one man: the president. In a dozen cities, demonstrators shouted slogans such as “Musharraf, dog!” and “Musharraf, killer!”

But a scant week later, analysts and observers said the Pakistani leader appeared to have weathered the storm, methodically taking a series of steps aimed at shoring up his position, at least in the short term. [complete article]

See also, Bhutto was killed by single assassin, say investigators (The Observer), U.S. relying on two in People’s Party to help stabilize Pakistan (WP), and Sharif carrying the torch of opposition in Pakistan (LAT).

Editor’s Comment — Remember who said, “it is the practice of democracy that makes a nation ready for democracy, and every nation can start on this path”? Of course President Bush was talking about Iraq and the Middle East and it was four years ago. Pakistan isn’t in the Middle East, neoconservatism is festering in the garbage can of history, and the word on everyone’s lips is not “democracy”; it’s “stability.”

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