‘Democracy remains a distant possibility in Pakistan’
WASHINGTON: Democracy, as generally understood, is unlikely to come to Pakistan during 2005, according to a projection by Indian academic Suba Chandran.
Chandran, author of a book on the Kargil conflict, writes in the current issue of the journal of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, that the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) aim to create political instability to gain more concessions from the establishment. He is doubtful whether the ARD will form a united front with the MMA. He also believes that an election that includes the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Nawaz League will “greatly affect” the MMA’s fortunes. If the MMA decides to launch agitation over a major politically emotional issue, it could reap “major dividends.” He expects the ARD to remain “opportunistic and politically unprincipled.” Its main component, the PPP is negotiating with the military establishment, which fearing a major showdown with the MMA in 2205, is trying to reach a deal with the secular and democratic forces. However, Gen Musharraf is unlikely to agree to either an immediate election under an independent commission or giving up his uniform. Both PPP and Pakistan Muslim League-N face dilemmas.
Chandran is of the view that the PML-Q is upset with Gen Musharraf’s plan for national reconciliation, as it would become its first victim. Without the military’s support, it can neither survive in the present set up nor face the elections. It cannot, however, pursue an independent path, and must support the one decided upon by the establishment. As for Gen Musharraf, the silent majority may or may not support him, but it may not oppose him or the establishment. At least, not this year. Unfortunately, there is no political alternative for them, around which they could rally. None of the political parties instil confidence as yet. General Musharraf would therefore continue to enjoy their support by default in 2005. “His control over the military will continue, with occasional planted stories on brewing divide from within. So would be the stories about the fundamentalist elements within the military taking over it; but would remain professional, though would increasingly become political,” according to the Indian academic, now at the University of Bradford.
Chandran, speculating on Gen Musharraf’s policy vis-à-vis India, writes that the pressure is already building on him for failing to get any major concessions from India, either on Kashmir or on other issues. Internal political instability, which is increasing due to his “bizarre” dealings, would only increase his vulnerability vis-à-vis India. He may be forced to take measures which would be seen as “doing something”, especially on Kashmir. His only achievement has been India’s acceptance to start the bus service between Srinagar and Muzafarabad.
He writes, “What are his options? If India proceeds further and signs a deal on gas pipelines, it may strengthen his position. If India, after signing the bus deal, backtracks at a later stage and does not reach an agreement on pipelines, it would give the impression inside Pakistan that India is not serious, hence no further concessions be made. Pressure would build further to revert to the old policy with intensified militant attacks in J&K and elsewhere in India. The level of infiltration may be low, but the intensity of the attacks may increase, in terms of the targets chosen.” He believes that cricket matches between the two countries could make an important contribution to soften and improve the atmosphere. However, “if the saffron brigade goes berserk, with the Indian state refusing to grant permission for the Pakistani fans or a minor communal riot takes place during the matches - any of these events or a combination of them would further polarise the two nations, helping the respective establishments to continue their hostility.” khalid hasan