Tag Archives: populist

Like army, like nation – by Nadeem F. Paracha

Excerpt:

The basic socio-political mindset of the Pakistani society is the outcome of various faith-based experiments conducted by the state and the armed forces.

The party

In 1995, sometime in May, an uncle of mine (an ex-army man), was invited to a party of sorts.

The invitation came from a former top-ranking military officer who had also worked for the Pakistan intelligence agency, the ISI. He was in the army with my uncle (who now resides abroad) during the 1960s.

My uncle, who was visiting Pakistan, asked if I was interested in going with him. I agreed.

The event was at a military officer’s posh bungalow in Karachi’s Clifton area. Most of the guests (if not all) were former military men. All were articulate, spoke fluent English and wore modern, western clothes.

I was not surprised by this but what did surprise me was a rather schizophrenic aura about the surroundings. Though modern-looking and modern-sounding, the gathering turned out to be a segregated affair.

The men’s wives were placed in a separate room, while the men gathered in a wider sitting area.

By now it become clear to me that I wouldn’t be getting served anything stronger than Pepsi on the rocks!

I scratched my head, thinking that even though I was at a ‘party’ in a posh, stylish bungalow in the posh, stylish Clifton area with all these posh stylish military men and their wives and yet, somehow I felt there very little that was ‘modern’ about the situation.

By modern, I also mean the thinking that was reflected by the male guests on politics, society and religion. Most of the men were also clean-shaven and reeking of expensive cologne, but even while talking about cars, horses and their vacations in Europe, they kept using Arabic expressions such as mashallah, alhamdullila, inshallah, etc.

I tried to strike up some political conversations with a few gentlemen but they expected me to agree with them about how civilian politicians were corrupt, how democracy can be a threat to Pakistan, how civilian leaders do not understand India’s nefarious designs, et al. …

The experiment

The Pakistan Army was once a staunchly secular beast. All across the 1950s and 1960s it was steeped in secular (albeit conservative) traditions and so were its sociological aspects.

In fact, until the late 1960s, Pakistani military men were asked to keep religion a private matter and religious exhibitionism was scorned at as well as reprimanded – mostly during Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s dictatorship (1959-69).

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Pakistan’s populist judges : Courting trouble

– An overactive judiciary might undermine a fragile democracy

PAKISTAN’S chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, is riding high. At a time when most of the country’s political leaders are despised as venal, lazy or inept, its senior jurist is held in esteem. People tell pollsters they trust him more than anyone. They cheer his efforts to take on the corrupt and hapless president, Asif Ali Zardari. Yet Mr Chaudhry may be crossing a line from activist judge to political usurper.

His judges pass up no chance to swipe at the government. Mr Chaudhry spent months trying to get Swiss officials to reopen a corruption case that could have toppled Mr Zardari (in Pakistan, criminal proceedings against a sitting president are prohibited). After that failed, the courts took up a thin-looking case in which the president is accused of unconstitutionally holding an office for profit. That looks vindictive: the office in question is his post as head of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party.

The courts quickly adopt populist causes, especially those that squeeze Mr Zardari. After an American diplomat shot dead two men in the street in Lahore last month, the mother of one victim appealed for justice on television, saying that she would trust only Mr Chaudhry to help. The High Court in Lahore promptly ordered that the diplomat, who had been arrested, must not be allowed out of the country—even if the government were to rule that he had immunity. In this case, as in many others, the judges have shown themselves to be able self-publicists. Their stance has won approving coverage.

And on the country’s illiberal but widely popular blasphemy law, the Lahore High Court intervened to forbid the president from issuing an early pardon to anyone convicted by lower courts. Before the murder last month of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab and critic of the blasphemy law, Mr Zardari had told him he was planning such a pardon. The courts seem set on boxing him in. …

Read more : The Economist