By Mahendra Ved.
In its sixth week, at the end of September, the political unrest in Pakistan showed no signs of resolving. It has disrupted both academics and politics, impacted national life, and been, for the most part, successfully non-violent. In Islamabad, political progress has been in a toss since top politicians and lawmakers have taken to the streets, not for a token protest, but indefinitely.
These demonstrations have hurt Pakistan’s fledgling economy and driven away investment. The prolonged drama in the heart of the national capital has even caused the presidents of two friendly nations, China and Sri Lanka, to cancel their planned visits.
Democracy survives only in form, impaired in spirit. The widespread perception is that while the political class is squabbling, the army, always waiting in the wings, is gaining ascendance. There is talk of a “soft coup” having already taken place.
The behaviour of the political class, those holding power as well as those who want to secure it by staging street protests, has dismayed those across the world who, only in May of last year, were applauding the first-ever completion of a five-year term by civilian government in Pakistan completed by a successful transition to another government elected through a democratic process.
All stakeholders, the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and its opponents, led by Imran Khan and Maulana Tahirul Qadri, are engaged in brinkmanship. Warnings by the highest judiciary and the army, two powerful institutions in Pakistan, have not made the political class end the crisis.
Stirred by Rivals
Prime Minister Sharif’s two opponents will settle for nothing short of his resignation. Khan, who heads the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) and controls the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, and Qadri, who heads the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), began their respective movements separately but have since joined forces. While Imran’s support on the ground has fluctuated, the crowd belongs firmly to Qadri, the Pakistani Canadian whose persona and agenda remain uncertain.
Continuing to lay a siege around the National Assembly complex, Khan and Qadri have for many days been addressing thousands. Support on the ground is ebbing as the …
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