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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
William Hague, addresses delegates at the Conservative party conference for the last time in his political career in Birmingham  

It’s only natural for politicians like William Hague to end up as journalists

Simon Kelner
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'