Pakistani politics is going through a tough time right now. There are at least two issues that have seriously put the country at risk of diving into anarchy that could last a long time. Like many other Pakistanis, I am also watching the political scene unfolding before us intently and cautiously.
The two issues that are now confronting Pakistan are:
- The ruling coalition in Pakistan, with the support of President Musharraf, has presented a bill in the Parliament that aims to change the hideous Hudood Ordinance (new bill is being called the Women’s Protection Bill). The Hudood ordinance is a despicable piece of legislation that somehow got passed through earlier, more ideological legislative assemblies, in order to enforce strict shariah law sin the country, especially vis-a-vis rights of women. Naturally a strong religiously oriented opposition has creatd a ruccus over it in the parliament, and have now taken their protests and other antics to the streets. How could they envision a system where, for example, women would have a right to report a rape without carrying the risk of being jailed for Zinah (sex outside marriage)?
- Secondly, an almost 80-year old tribal leader who had long engaged the government in a pitched battle over a large province’ autonomy, was shot dead by military forces. Nawab Akbar Bugti was not just any tribal leader, but one who commanded considerable respect in the tribal baloch despite his terroriszing ways of negotiationg with the government, and his utmost lack of interest in the development of the Baloch people or the province. Regardless, his death has widened the gulf between the central government and an already alienated province. Quetta, the capital city of the Balochistan province is under curfew and protests are taking place across the city.
This is a critical time for the Pakistani politics to try and redeem itself from its abysmal performance in the past 10-20 years (since 1988, really). General Musharraf’s government has faltered badly – while the changes in the Hudood ordinance are a must, the distraction caused by the Bugti murder is not going to help the cause of women in our country.
I have no idea what has gone wrong with the Musharraf government that people are feeling a complete lack of strategy in any of their programs. After 7 years of power, have they really lost touch with the street and the people? Do they really not understand how big their strategic and tactical blunders are, and how their patheic performances in trying to win over political opponents via dialogue and discussion (or torture and murder) are infecting the very roots of democracy in our country? Musharraf seems to have started considering himself as a visionary who has been ordained to deliver Pakistan from all its evils (alas with poor execution: we should have known this from his Kargil days), and Prime Minster Shaukat Aziz, like an obedient commander, seems to be simply towing the line. In this ordained role, unfortunately, the people have no say whatsoever, and the doors to his excellency’s command center seem to only go through the military corridors. The power obviously resides with the military complex, and in the post-9/11 world, the military commanders (who in pakistan are always thirsty for power beyond their military structures) seem to have lost sight altogether of what is right and what is wrong for them to do. From the torture of protestors in Wana to eviction of farmers in Punjab to the murder of Bugti, the heavy handed approach of the present is going to cost Pakistan much. Lets wait and watch how Musharraf tries to dig himself out of this hole.