Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
With hindsight, it seems clear that a mass movement named after Mao’s Long March but also claiming Gandhi’s principles of non-violence risked disappointing its supporters. The failure of the Long March by Pakistan’s lawyers to restore judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf, and its dispersal last Saturday, has prompted much debate about why its leaders gave up without at least staging a sit-in.
Defence analyst Ikram Sehgal called the Long March a logistical success in its ability to garner mass support without violence, but a tactical failure. “The tactical failure of this long-lasting tremendous effort founded on great principles has become a strategic disaster for Musharraf’s opponents,” he writes in The News. “About Pervez Musharraf, ‘with such friends who needs enemies’, one can paraphrase the saying for him: ‘With such enemies why does he need friends?’”
The blog All Things Pakistan says supporters of the Long March “are justifiably feeling let down by the grand posturing, thundering rhetoric and the subsequent retreat from agitation”. But it adds: “The lawyers’ movement is profoundly significant. It constitutes the finest historical ‘moment’ in our troubled history.”
Aitzaz Ahsan, the leader of the lawyers’ movement, writes in Newsweek that the Long March was “an act of collective and nonviolent defiance perhaps unrivaled in Pakistan’s checkered history”.
This is definitely a case of “the more you know, the less you understand”.
There has been much talk in the media about whether PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari is heading for a showdown with President Pervez Musharraf to force him out of office.
Junoon, or madness in Arabic, will play in a heavily fortified auditorium on the banks of the Dal lake, but its Sufi music and soaring guitar riffs should resonate far beyond, given that this is where Sufism, a form of Islamic mysticism, struck roots in the subcontinent.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is pushing for visa-free travel with India, and has gone to the extent of saying Islamabad might do it unilaterally if New Delhi is not prepared to go the distance.
As ideas go, visa-free travel in a globalised world isn’t anything remarkable. In the context of the tortured India-Pakistan relationship this, however, would be nothing short of a political masterstroke.
U.S. ambassador Anne W. Patterson, in a speech reported by the Pakistan press, said last week that the depth of anti-Americanism in Pakistan, especially among the middle-class, had surprised her. Pakistan’s long-term interests were aligned with those of the United States, and those opposing U.S. engagement in the country had a limited understanding of how the partnership based on economic assistance had changed the lives of Pakistanis, she told a meeting in Karachi. For added measure, she said that the “ïncreasingly prosperous middle class” would be the first to suffer if hardliners gained ground.
She needn’t have looked further than to events last week to see why America sits rather uneasily on the Pakistani mind, a heavy hand of friendship that Pakistanis are increasingly chafing against.