Politicians help military damage Pakistan’s democratic prospects


Manzoor Pashteen, the leader of an activist group that denounces abuses of power by Pakistan’s military, was arrested (HT:CFR) on charges including sedition and intimidation. Amnesty International called for Pashteen’s immediate release, saying he had been arbitrarily detained.

Mr. Pashteen and his movement, widely known by the initials P.T.M., have presented one of the most influential challenges to the military’s dominance of Pakistan as it has cracked down on minorities, journalists and other critics in recent years, The New York Times adds.

Since its foundation in 1947, Pakistan has spent more than three decades under military rule. Even when out of power, the military has exerted behind-the-scenes influence to maintain its firm grip on politics and national security. Establishing democratic institutions, including civilian control of the military, has thus been an arduous process riddled with uncertainty, backsliding and reversal, notes Aqil Shah (@AqilShah), an associate professor of South Asian politics in the Department of International and Area Studies at the University of Oklahoma and the author of “The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s army has long been the ultimate arbiter of politics in the country, which has tilted the political playing field against its opponents with detrimental consequences for democracy. Politicians have turned to the military as a shortcut to power and their politically expedient knocks on the doors of the barracks have allowed the generals to divide and rule, he writes for The New York Times:

Democracy does not necessarily need principled democrats, but it does need determined political leaders who can rise to the occasion. Even though democracy requires compromises and accommodation between authoritarians and democrats, politicians of all persuasions must commit to civilian supremacy as the only game in town.

Pakistan’s politicians have chosen to reward the military’s egregious violations of the sanctity of the vote, a principle they had sworn to stand by no matter what, adds Shah, a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy. Their abject betrayal of their own word augurs ill for the future of democracy in Pakistan. RTWT

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