Are Pakistan's military and courts gearing up for another assault on a fledgling democracy?

There are worries that the democratic process will be replaced with an unelected cabinet

Share
Related Topics

It was like déjà vu, all over again. Less than a year after Pakistan’s Supreme Court sacked one prime minister, it appears to have trained its guns on his successor.

Last June, the Supreme Court sacked Yousuf Raza Gilani after he refused to write a letter to Swiss authorities urging them to reopen old corruption cases against his boss, President Asif Ali Zardari. Raja Pervez Ashraf, the current occupant of the prime minister’s residence, didn’t wish for the same fate, and wrote the letter. It hasn’t helped him.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said Mr Ashraf was implicated in a power project scam from his less than glorious days as energy-starved Pakistan’s Minister for Water and Power.

The scandal had been a subject of the court’s proceedings for many months now. What many observers question is the timing, and what appears to be the determination of the court to weaken the sitting government just a few months ahead of historic elections. The polls will be the first time that Pakistan’s electorate will have an opportunity to successfully vote out a civilian government and decide who replaces it.

The ruling came as a large crowd massed in Islamabad, led by Tahir ul-Qadri, a charismatic cleric. Dr Qadri, noted for his taste in extravagant rhetoric and headgear, is demanding the government quit. Incensed, he says, by a civilian democracy that is high on corruption and low on governance, he would like a caretaker government to take over. The new set-up should have the blessing of the army and the judiciary, he added.

The script is wearily familiar to Pakistanis. During the 1990s, successive democratic governments were heaved out of office for various charges of alleged corruption. The pressure was applied from behind a thin veil by powerful generals.

Dr Qadri denies the military establishment backs him. But the rhetoric, with its enthusiasm for the state and contempt for democracy, chimes neatly with their long-standing views. Many also wonder about his suspiciously well-funded campaign.

The fear is that Pakistan’s fledgling democracy will be aborted through a “soft coup” mere months before the election, expected in May.

There are worries that the democratic process will be replaced with an unelected cabinet of technocrats, chosen by the military and the judiciary, as Dr Qadri wishes.

The court’s decision is seen as little to do with the niceties of the law. It is fundamentally about politics. In particular, unelected and unaccountable individuals, on the streets and in the courts, deciding that it is they, and not the people of Pakistan, who know what’s best for the country.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems and Network Administrator

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: We are recruiting for a Systems and ...

English Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Group: English as an Additional Langua...

Nursery assistants required in Cambridgeshire

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

History Teacher

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Photo issued by Flinders University of an artist's impression of a Microbrachius dicki mating scene  

One look at us Scots is enough to show how it was our fishy ancestors who invented sex

Donald MacInnes
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp  

Oscar Pistorius sentence: Judge Masipa might have shown mercy, but she has delivered perfect justice

Chris Maume
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album