Just when many thought Pakistan was finally on the trajectory towards a functioning democratic system, unrest broke out in a number of cities and provided a stark reminder just how fragile the country’s politics remain. This whole situation not only threatens democracy in South Asia’s second most populous country but also draws attention and resources from sustainable development and humanitarian challenges. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan accuses the current Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, ofrigging the May 2013 elections and robbing him of victory, and is calling for him to stand down. All sorts ofallegations and rumours are being thrown into the mix – has Khan been plotting this for months in collaboration with the disgruntled army? Is the army using Khan as a pawn to oust a government that is diminishing the role of the army in politics? Who knows? Khan’s actions make one thing clear: that he is willing to jeopardise Pakistan’s burgeoning political stability.
What’s the story? More than two weeks ago, Imran Khan, the Oxford-educated cricketer-turned-politician, and Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, a Pakistani Canadian-based political and religious figure, started coordinated marches in Islamabad. The marches culminated in a protracted ‘sit in’, as many refer to it, in the city’s secure Red Zone, where many major government institutions are located. Related demonstrations and strikes have taken place in other cities across Pakistan.
All in all, the situation has remained relatively peaceful, though some violence emerged this past Saturday when police forcefully repelled demonstrators – some armed with clubs and other weapons – as they attempted to storm the Prime Minister’s official residence. Three were killed in the resulting violence and more than 400 were injured, earning some sympathy but not necessarily support for the demonstrators. The army then issued a statement of ‘concern’ about the situation which calmed tensions and opened space for dialogue among the parties involved. All sides, particularly Imran Khan, have predictably claimed victory.
Full Article: Pakistan’s democracy on the rocks | openDemocracy.