Democracy in danger

Jan 17, 2012, 07:05 IST | MiD DAY Correspondent
The intriguing developments in Pakistan are symptomatic of how our neighbouring state is run, and by whom. It is clear that the Supreme Court contempt notice on Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani could worsen the already deep crisis the nation finds itself in, given the tensions between the government and the military.

In the best of situations, Pakistan is never a true democracy; at best it is an oligarchy. Of sorts, that is, and led by a notional President and prime minister, even though both are democratically elected. The military is the one that pulls the strings and no democratically elected government has had the courage so far to take on the military, especially after Gen Zia-ul-Haq began his 10-year regime in the late 1970s.

Many would call the latest crisis between the government and the military as a silent coup; and that it is only a matter of time before the military takes over the country's reins formally. This may or may not happen given the jittery relationship Islamabad has with Washington, and the latter may end all aid if Pakistan slides into military dictatorship.

Gilani began the battle of nerves by stating that the ISI and the military were irresponsible in their handling of the "Memo" issue as they had approached the SC without the approval of the government. In response, General Ashfaq Kayani has asked President Asif Ali Zardari to ask Gilani to retract his statement. The latter did not. In fact, he announced that he is answerable only to Parliament, not individuals.

In a country where democracy almost always hangs by a thread, Gilani's belligerent stance is interesting. Perhaps even suicidal. Yet, it seems to be a calculated risk. If the military does take over, it might lose whatever little support it has both nationally and internationally. Gilani knows this. Perhaps Pakistan is about to spring another surprise at us. And this time, India has enough time to prepare.

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