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

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Thousands of Russian troops marched on Red Square in the annual Victory Day parade in a proud display of the nation's military might amid escalating tensions over Ukraine  

Once again, the West fails to understand Russia

Mary Dejevsky
Jamie Oliver joins children as they celebrate Food Revolution Day 2014 by cooking bread, making smoothies and creating salads at St Paul's Whitechapel CE Primary School in London  

Teaching children to cook at school is a recipe for self-respect

Grace Dent
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before