Pakistan’s deepening political crisis has escalated dramatically, with the Supreme Court initiating contempt proceedings against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. The judgement could lead to the dismissal of Mr Gilani and eventually President Asif Ali Zardari, as the army appears to be giving full backing to the courts.
Since the 1950s every political crisis Pakistan has faced has been a result of civilians trying to wrest power and control from the military. This crisis is no different except for one important aspect – the military has no intention of seizing power. Instead it has allied with the Supreme Court in an attempt to get rid of a government that is widely perceived to be corrupt and irresponsible.
But in an era when hope of democracy is spreading through the Arab Muslim world and powerful armies in countries such as Thailand and Turkey have learnt to live under civilian control, Pakistan is an ongoing tragedy. Its military refuses to give up its huge stake in the economy and its privileges, while its politicians refuse to govern wisely or honestly and decline to carry out basic economic reforms such as taxing themselves.
The military cannot afford a coup now, nor do they need one. Once the courts order the expected dismissal of Mr Gilani and perhaps Mr Zardari, the army and opposition politicians can mount relentless pressure on the two leaders to accept the court’s verdicts and resign. What would follow would be an interim government followed by general elections within three months. That may not be such a bad thing but the tragedy is that nothing is in place to prevent such a crisis occurring again and again. Continue reading »