Democracy Wavering in Pakistan

August 26, 2014

Thousands of supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Imran Khan and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s (PAT) cleric-cum-politician leader Tahirul Qadri have taken to the streets in Islamabad, Pakistan to demand the resignation of current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

This comes at a time when the country continues to face intense conflict with the Taliban in the northwest, which has led to the displacement and emergency needs of over one million Pakistanis.

Protesters’ demands range from dissolution of all current legislatures to sweeping constitutional reform to trials for those responsible in rigging Pakistan’s 2013 general election, but they all agree on one resounding point – it is time for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down.

The Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association (PESA) has called for “immediate dissolution of assemblies, formation of a constitutional caretaker government, electoral reforms and appointment of an Independent Election Commission before fresh elections are held.”

It is evident that the democratic process in Pakistan has not been successful and until the appropriate institutions are established, a “free and fair” election cannot be conducted.

The international community has expressed great concern over the dangers of military intervention, which Pakistan has historically faced during times of political upheaval.

The International Crisis Group is one of the many voices that have recently spoken out against such military action through its Conflict Alert entitled “Protecting Pakistan’s Threatened Democracy” in which political and military leadership in Pakistan are urged to “continue to adhere to the constitution and enforcement of the rule of law, while permitting the right to peaceful protest.”

Crisis Group also brings to light the danger that “infiltrators, including terrorists and violent extremists, could exploit the situation to attack elected representatives, security personnel, diplomats, or even demonstrator to provoke violence.”

Though protests in Islamabad have remained peaceful, earlier this month four anti-government protesters and two policemen were killed in pre-protest clashes in the provincial capital Lahore.

Crisis Group calls for the government to seek a negotiated settlement with Khan and Qadri while prohibiting the military from having any power over the outcome. Whether a settlement is negotiated or not, there are clearly deeper issues that need to be addressed in order for democracy to grow in Pakistan. 


Photo courtesy of Muhammad Khurram Nadeem

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