Pakistan’s relationship with the United States can’t get more transactional than the prolonged negotiations over restoration of the Pakistani supply route for NATO troops in Afghanistan.
Pakistan: Now or Never?
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has written a letter to the Supreme Court to review the hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — the country’s first popularly-elected prime minister — over three decades ago.
Never in the history of Pakistan has a democratically elected civilian government served out its full term and then been replaced by another one, also through democratic elections. It is that context that makes the latest political crisis in Pakistan so important.
Of the many comments I heard in Pakistan, one question particularly flummoxed me. Was democracy really the right system for South Asia? It came, unsurprisingly, from someone sympathetic to the military, and was couched in a comparison between Pakistan and India.
Outside President Asif Ali Zardari’s political rally in Birmingham last weekend, I chatted to a middle-aged woman passing by about the floods in Pakistan. “I have every sympathy for Pakistan and the Pakistanis, but he is not helping them much, is he?” she said. Another woman asked me to explain why it was that the protesters were not focused on the floods but demonstrating “about all sorts”. Inside the rally, a young British Pakistani who had recently returned from a visit to his family home in Kashmir complained about negative stereotyping in the media of Pakistan that had reduced a country of some 170 million people to “a terrorist threat”.
“Whatever the result, this meeting will be a turning point in Pakistan’s history,” Pakistan President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto told his daughter Benazir as he prepared for a summit meeting with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1972 in the Indian hill resort of Simla after his country’s defeat by India in the 1971 war. “I want you to witness it first hand.”
Pakistani authorities banned public protests and detained hundreds of lawyers and opposition workers nationwide to prevent them from launching Thursday’s planned “long march” towards the capital Islamabad to force President Asif Ali Zardari to reinstate a former Supreme Court judge.
President Asif Ali Zardari has said that an agreement signed last month to allow Islamic law in the troubled Swat Valley in return for a ceasefire was made with religious clerics, and not the Taliban. The Pakistani state had not negotiated with the Taliban and other extremist elements, and nor will it ever do so, Zardari wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal.
A reader has pointed to an agreement that Pakistan’s Jamaat-i-Islami, the main Islamist political group, signed with the Chinese communist party during its trip to Beijing a few days ago.