29 November 2007

Democracy in Pakistan

Musharraf Says Emergency Rule Will End on Dec. 16
To be honest, I'm not sure if I believe him. Having taken power in a coup d'état, suspended the constitution and dismissed the Supreme Court when he knew they were going to rule against him, I don't exactly trust that he will end martial law.

But he said parliamentary elections would now go ahead as scheduled on Jan. 8 without the need for continued emergency rule, and he called on the opposition leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to participate fully.
Mr. Musharraf took the oath of office as a civilian president here in the capital a day after relinquishing his role as the country’s military chief.

At the official ceremony, he warned assembled foreign diplomats not to force democracy and human rights on developing countries, but to let them evolve in their own time. Many of them had been highly critical of his recent actions.

To sum up, he was sworn into a second term that was probably not exactly legal. But he did finally take off his uniform. He says that there will be a return of the constitutional rule and there will be an election for parliament in January, both of which are very good things. But, like I said, I'll pleased when those things actually happen.

One thing that has to be kept in mind, whatever Musharraf's real opinion on the matter, the region is destabilized. Most of Afghanistan is run by warlords and the boarder is hardly secure. With its immediate neighbor so fragmented, any leader of Pakistan would be in an unenviable position. We can hope that Pakistan will make democratic reforms, but with a leader prone to dictatorial means, an unstable neighbor to the north and lets not forget its long running dispute with India, I hope Pakistan can do this.

Its interesting to read that since the dissolution of the Supreme Court, lawyers have been in the streets protesting. Here, lawyers are pretty low key people and the thought of a huge group of lawyers taking the streets sounds like something out of the Onion. Then again, if the rule of law was being suspended, I would like to think that at least some lawyers would come to the defense of their profession.

The really interesting thing Musharraf says is this:

“There is an unrealistic or even impractical obsession with your form of democracy, human rights and civil liberties, which you have taken centuries to acquire and which you expect us to adopt in a few years, in a few months,” he said, addressing the diplomats.

“We want democracy; I am for democracy. We want human rights, we want civil liberties, but we will do it our way, as we understand our society, our environment, better than anyone in the West,” he said.

While I disagree that an obsession with democracy and civil rights is a bad thing, I can see how one could argue that you can't force democracy. I system that requires the population to be active participants cannot be built overnight. That said, we look back at the lawyers in the street and see that Pakistanis do want to participate in their government. I hope that their desire to participate is strong enough and that Musharraf is able to recognize when that the time has come.

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