“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, September 01, 2014

Now it is Pakistan

Pakistan in turmoil
Unleashing the mob
Sep 1st 2014, 12:34 by A.R. | DELHI


BACK in the days before social media, mobile phones and private television, the surest way of signalling that you had seized political power was to take control of the state broadcaster. That is what the army did in October 1999, when it forced out an elected government led by Nawaz Sharif. Almost 15 years later, on September 1st protesters in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, have done just the same thing: storming the offices of Pakistan Television (PTV) and taking it off the air for 45 minutes before army rangers reasserted control. The thuggish attack, apparently by supporters of a rabble-rousing, pro-army cleric, Tahir ul Qadri, followed a weekend of mayhem in the capital.
For days it has looked as if Pakistan were teetering on the verge of something like another coup, or at least the explicit reassertion of military control over civilian rulers. Unrest persists in Islamabad where for weeks protesters have gathered and demanded the resignation of Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister who was most recently elected with a large mandate, in a free election, last year. Along with Mr Qadri is a former playboy cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan, who came third in last year’s elections. He claims, with evidence that is somewhere between flimsy and non-existent, that polls were rigged to favour the then-opposition leader, Mr Sharif; Mr Khan wants them all re-run.
He and Mr Qadri called on their respective supporters, many armed with long sticks—and, according to some reports, also knives, axes and other weapons—to storm the prime minister’s home late on August 30th. That was a deeply cynical act on several scores. The two demagogues must have known that violence would follow, and almost certainly deaths too, but they must have calculated that by inflaming matters further they might provoke the fall of Mr Sharif. In fact several dozen people were badly injured and at least two died in clashes with the (civilian-led) police. Despite pledging to lead the mob, both leaders melted away. They must be betting that the longer they press for rule at the behest of a tiny minority—their noisy tens of thousands of protesters, of a population of some 180m Pakistani citizens—on the street, the greater the sway that the army will gain over elected politicians. Late in the afternoon of September 1st charges of terrorism were lodged against both populist leaders, according to Dawn newspaper.
It has become hard to imagine that Mr Khan and Mr Qadri have any other intention than to strengthen the hand of the army over the civilians. Mr Khan has set up a series of stunts to provoke an outright crisis: he ordered his party’s MPs to resign from parliament in August (though he did not think it worthwhile to remove his party from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where they hold a majority). He has failed to make a convincing case either that Mr Sharif is so corrupt, or that somehow he came to office by illegitimate means, that a frenzied attack by thousands of street protesters could serve as a legitimate substitute for lawful, constitutional change. And it is close to certain that he—and Mr Qadri—have the backing of Pakistan’s army. Mass protests, and the attacks on state television, would be impossible to sustain if the army came out clearly against them.
One theory doing the rounds since late last week is that Mr Sharif has already agreed with army chiefs that he will cede control of foreign and security policy to them, in order to remain in office. Many well-informed Pakistani observers are already saying that Mr Sharif has already, in effect, lost power. It is unclear, however, if that is true. Mr Sharif is a defiant leader who has been the victim of a coup before, when Pervez Musharraf overthrew him in 1999 and became the most recent in a long line of military dictators to rule Pakistan. Mr Sharif may determine that he would be better off to be blatantly turfed from office again, rather than forced into some sort of power-sharing deal. An outright coup would—rightly—provoke international condemnation, and cut off American and European military aid, among other funds. It would also make clear, again, that sustained civilian rule has never been tolerated by Pakistan’s power-hungry army. With bitter irony, the reminder comes barely a year after general celebrations over the fact that Pakistan had for the first time achieved the transfer of power between two civilian, elected, administrations.
Indeed, Mr Sharif has for some time looked willing to endure outright confrontation with the army. He has ensured that Mr Musharraf faces the rule of law, as he is tried for treason, despite military chiefs believing that their man should instead be allowed to flee the country. Mr Sharif has also attempted to reach out to India for peace talks and to restart trade, both of which the army opposes. It is unclear why, now, he would agree to remain in office with no powers, after months of refusing to accommodate the wishes of the army.

The latest confrontation, instead, should be a moment for Pakistanis, as well as foreign donors and friends, to rethink the role of the army. It claims to be a source of stability for the country. It battles Islamist extremists, is engaged in a campaign for control of North Waziristan and has long assumed the role of guarantor of stability in Pakistan—for example, against theoretical aggression from India. Yet over time it has proved to be the cause of immense pain and instability. Its past is riddled with destructive acts. For half of Pakistan’s existence it preserved outright control over politics and for much of the rest of its time it has sought to manipulate politics from afar. The army eats the lion’s share of the country’s public spending; it involved itself in a near-genocide that led to the secession of Bangladesh; and deployed its spy service to usurp elections, murder journalists and collude with Islamist extremists. It quite probably provided shelter to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s leader, and has been an active force in destabilising Afghanistan. It also remains the single-greatest obstacle to a peace deal with India. If it should now be barging its way back to outright control of politics—aided by the work of Mr Khan and Mr Qadri—that is something for Pakistanis and the rest of the world to lament. 


  1. I always kinda liked Musharaff -

    - who seemed not so bad a guy.

    Unfortunately, the last I heard he was in jail in Pakistan.

    He should have retired to Burbank, California.

  2. This must be a spoof -

    Just HALF of women can locate the vagina on a diagram of the female reproductive system
    Women's cancer charity The Eve Appeal is promoting 'straight talking' about gynaecological health
    Half of 26 to 35-year-olds couldn't identify a vagina on a picture of the female reproductive system, survey found
    Fifth of women aged 16-25 couldn't name any of the symptoms of the five gynaecological cancers
    Third of 16 to 25-year-olds had avoided going to their GP about gynaecological issues due to embarrassment
    Every day in the UK around 55 women are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer, which affect the womb, cervix, ovaries, vagina and vulva

    By Madlen Davies For Mailonline

    Published: 06:28 EST, 1 September 2014 | Updated: 09:53 EST, 1 September 2014

    Read more:

    1. If a woman cannot identify her vagina she should not be allowed to vote.

  3. Somali officials said all of the attackers, as well as three government soldiers and two civilians, were killed.

    The Pentagon and the US state department have supported the 22,000-member AU force that drove al-Shabab from their former strongholds in the capital and other urban centres.

    The militants continue to carry out bombings and assassinations in the city.

  4. Sam, down under there, do the girls all know where their vaginas are?

  5. All the ones I've run into, yeah.

    They seem to have trouble finding the ironing board, but vaginas? These Aussie surfer girls got that one covered, amigo!

  6. Mass protests, and the attacks on state television, would be impossible to sustain if the army came out clearly against them.

    When the reality is ...

    ... storming the offices of Pakistan Television (PTV) and taking it off the air for 45 minutes before army rangers reasserted control.

    So the Army did 'come out against them', but the support of the Army for the thuggish rioters is still assured, the authors say ...

  7. What is "Pakistan"?

    Is it a real people? A real nation in the historic sense?


    Just another moslem torn off land mass given in appeasement to the moon-god....

  8. This aint news... Jews didn't do it..

    At least 42 children have been killed in government air strikes and shelling across Syria in the last 36 hours, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said Sunday, according to AFP.

    The Britain-based Observatory said 25 children had been killed between midnight on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, with 17 more killed between Friday and Saturday night.

    The deaths came in regime shelling and airstrikes across the country, though most took place in the northern province of Aleppo and northwestern Idlib, Observatory director Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP.

    Many of the deaths came in raids involving the use of explosive-packed barrel-bombs, a weapon that has been criticized by rights groups as indiscriminate.

    Among the dead on Sunday were at least five children killed along with five adults in a barrel bomb attack on the town of Hobait in Idlib province, said the monitor.

    In northern Aleppo province, another five children and three adults were killed in an air raid in the west of the province, according to AFP.

    In the capital Damascus, meanwhile, regime planes continued to pound the eastern rebel-held district of Jubar, where the government began a fierce offensive earlier this week to wrest back control.

    The Observatory said at least 15 air raids hit the district on Sunday, but there were no immediate details about casualties.
    Jubar has been in insurgent hands for a year, and is considered strategic because it provides a gateway to the center of the capital and opens onto the key rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta.

    While there has been much focus on the Islamic State (IS) and its actions in Syria and Iraq, the civil war between President Bashar Al-Assad's forces and rebels trying to overthrow still continues.

  9. Pakistan has been a state since 1947, but is still not a nation. More precisely, Pakistan is the name of a land and a people inside a certain geographical boundary that is still lacking the crucial components needed for nationhood: a strong common identity, mental make-up, a shared sense of history and common goals. The failure so far to create a cohesive national entity flows from inequalities of wealth and opportunity, absence of effective democracy and a dysfunctional legal system.

    While it is true that most Punjabis think of themselves as Pakistani first and Punjabi second, this is not the case with the Baloch or Sindhis. Schools in Balochistan refuse to hoist Pakistan’s flag or sing its national anthem. Sindhis, meanwhile, accuse Punjabis of stealing their water, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) runs Karachi on strictly ethnic grounds, and in April the Pashtun of NWFP successfully had the province officially renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (against the wishes of other residents). In getting a job, caste and sect matters more than ability, and ethnic student groups wage pitched battles against each other on campuses throughout the country.

    The lack of nationhood can be traced to the genesis of Pakistan and the single factor that drove it – religious identity. Carved out of Hindu-majority India, Pakistan was the culmination of the competition and conflict between natives who had converted to Islam and those who had not. Converts often identified with Arab invaders of the last millennium. Shah Waliullah (1703-62), a ‘purifier’ of Islam on the Subcontinent who despised local traditions, famously declared ‘We [Hindustanis] are an Arab people whose fathers have fallen in exile in the country of Hindustan, and Arabic genealogy and the Arabic language are our pride.’

    The founder of Pakistan, Mohamed Ali Jinnah, also echoed the separateness of Muslims and Hindus, basing the struggle for Pakistan on the premise that the two peoples could never live together peacefully within one nation state. But Jinnah was unrecognisably different from Waliullah, a bearded religious scholar. An impeccably dressed Westernised man with Victorian manners, a secular outlook and an appreciation of fine foods and wines, Jinnah nevertheless eloquently articulated the fears and aspirations of an influential section of his co-religionists. Interestingly, he was opposed by a large section of the conservative ulema, such as Maulana Maudoodi of the Jamaat-e-Islami, who said that Islam must not be confined to national borders. But Jinnah and his Muslim League won the day by insisting that Muslims constituted a distinct nation that would be overwhelmed in post-British India by a larger and better-educated Hindu majority.

    Thus Pakistan, in essence, was created as the negative of India: it was not India. But what was it, then, beyond being a homeland for Muslims? Decades after the horrific bloodbath of Partition, the idea of Pakistan remains hotly debated. It did not help that Jinnah died in 1948, just a year after Pakistan was born, with his plans still ambiguously stated. He authored no books and wrote no policy paper. He did make many speeches, of which several were driven by political expediency and are frankly contradictory. These are freely cherry-picked today, with some finding in them a liberal and secular voice; others, an embodiment of Islamic values. The confusion is irresolvable.

  10. "and better educated Hindu majority"

    I can certainly believe that.

  11. What is "Occupation"Tue Sep 02, 07:02:00 AM EDT
    Among the dead on Sunday were at least five children killed along with five adults in a barrel bomb attack on the town of Hobait in Idlib province, said the monitor.


    These were smart barrel bombs, so the Syrians cannot be accused of random the Jews.