Sunday, March 15, 2009

The return of the lawyers

You heard it here first: Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari has agreed to reinstate the supreme court judge Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. This is good news and a very optimistic moment for Pakistan. Not only has Nawaz Sharif won his political confrontation with Zardari, but the country's lawyers, who have been agitating non-stop for many months, have succeeded in establishing the principle of an independent judiciary. The strengthening of its institutions is a step in the right direction for that unfortunate country and its people.

The New York Times article quotes the special envoy Richard Holbrooke:
the United States applauded “the statesmanlike act by President Zardari and hope that it will help defuse a dangerous confrontation so that Pakistan, with the help of its many friends, can address the nation’s pressing and urgent needs.”
(link to article.)
Give me a break. This was no statesmanlike act. Even the most die-hard supporters of Zardari can see that the unpopular president was simply forced to give in to reality. Security forces in Punjab refused to carry out their orders against Sharif and his party. Even Zardari's own partymen began to desert him. Information minister Sherry Rehman resigned when TV networks were muzzled.

Where does this leave the United States? Who cares. When did we last worry about Pakistan's "pressing and urgent needs"? Everybody knows that all we care about is its nuclear weapons and its Islamist radicals. After our history of consistently backing the wrong horse in Pakistan, helping to destroy its already crumbling institutions, and willingness to do the quick and dirty thing instead of what is right, we have lost all credibility with the Pakistani public, and deservedly so.

Boston Brahmin hopes that a fresh beginning can now be made. If the people are willing to seize their democracy and make it their own, then there is hope for the future.