‘Pakistan’s Plight’

‘Pakistan’s Plight’ by Tariq Ali for The Nation, January 3, 2008

A multidimensional charade is taking place in Pakistan, and it is not an edifying sight. Pervez Musharraf has discarded his uniform and is trying to cling to power, whatever the cost.

So far it has been high: the dismissal of the Supreme Court judges and their replacement by stooges; police brutality against a strong lawyers’ movement protesting the military assault on the judiciary; and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, who had returned to Pakistan as part of an ill-judged deal brokered by the Bush Administration and its British acolytes.

Add to this the sad spectacle of supposedly reformist, Western-backed politicians assembling like old family retainers at the feudal home of the slain leader and rubber-stamping her political will: Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, has become stopgap supremo till her 19-year-old son, Bilawal, can replace his late mother as chairperson-for-life. This farcical succession occurred in a party that was born in 1967 out of the mass struggle of disenfranchised students, workers, professionals and peasants for democracy and, yes, socialism. That is why it was named the Pakistan People’s Party. Its trajectory encapsulates the crisis of democratic politics in Pakistan: a party is publicly expropriated and corrupted by a single faction from an old family; its members are treated like serfs; its weak-kneed leaders told to either accept their new overlords or find another vehicle for their ambitions. Where can they go? read more