The hegemony of the military has been successfully questioned, if not threatened. This does not take away from the fact that the military still continues to be powerful, interventionist, and a veto player in many key decisions, but things need to be seen in their historical perspective.
Pakistan’s main contradiction at the moment is over military and civilian supremacy. Issues of class, where the landed and propertied rule over and exploit the dispossessed and working people, or of real sovereignty of the country, where Pakistan’s elite acquire the vision and sense to confront imperial and global power, are more permanent evolving features of the nature of contradictions facing Pakistan.
Similarly, other more substantive longer-term social conflicts are also embedded in contested visions of cultural and social ideology, which one sees being played out in different spheres. While multiple contradictions exist in Pakistan, the immediate tussle over civilian rule free from the obtrusiveness of the military and its institutions, has been played out far more visibly and colourfully than the longer, more drawn-out, transitions.
The Abbottabad raid by the US, the outcome of the Asghar Khan case, or even the largely symbolic indictment of General Musharraf, have allowed public criticism of what Aasim Sajjad Akhtar in these columns has called ‘sacred cows’ to be voiced fairly belligerently.
As he argues, ‘even a few years ago it was unthinkable that the ISI and its chief could be subject to such accusations’ as it has recently. Clearly such a new-found voice by members of parliament or the media, is far more than ‘ornamental’, and must represent a greater shift.