Archive | December, 2007

Keeping It and Never Letting Go

31 Dec

Juan Cole, reporting on the Palistan People’s Party’s decision to run Makhdum Amin Fahim for prime minister on January 8th, takes a good swipe ridiculing the party of feudalism the PPP is determined to remain.

The PPP during the past two decades has been internally split between a rising middle class urban leadership and the old landowning families. An alternative to Fahim would have been the smart Punjabi lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, who was jailed for protesting the dismissal of the justices, and is admired by a lot of the urban activists. Despite Benazir’s own education abroad, her instincts (and now those of her widower) was always to "run the feudals," and to depend on the landlords’ ability to get out the vote among their own (largely illiterate and repressed) peasants.

The PPP leadership had a chance to become the party of the future and to galvanize the new middle class, which has spearheaded the challenge to Musharraf over his gutting of the judiciary. It has instead run the feudals again. Fahim seems to me unlikely to generate the sort of excitement that Aitzaz Ahsan would have. But then, the PPP will probably get a big sympathy vote. Once in power, however, unless it pursues policies that benefit urban classes, it will find itself eclipsed.

So, Pakistan=Fief, People=Lord, Party=Clan?

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Pakistan’s Shaky Aristocracy

31 Dec

The coming-out party for the son of Pakistan’s slain former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, and Asif Ali Zardari, now christened for his new role as titular leader of the Pakistan people’s Party (PPP), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, demonstrates the fragility of republican institutions in Asian states. Zardari is 19 years old. Furthermore, he’s not even a college graduate, or even, as he admits, knowledgeable about his own country. Zardari’s father and a committee will actually run the PPP.

Matthew Yglesias points out . Pakistan is also prone to military coups. But, within the context of the continent – setting South Asian dynasties apart – where Japan’s prime minister is the second in generations, ROK’s conservative party includes the daughter of an assassinated dictator, and DPRK’s regime is unabashedly communist and dynastic, perhaps it’s fitting to call Asian states elective aristocracies.

The younger Zardari’s rise echoes the chilling, emotionally resonant path of his mother, who was thrust into public life after her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged in 1979 by order of the military ruler, General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq.

Shortly before the official announcement of his ascension at a crowded news conference came a ceremonious rearrangement of the dais. His newly constructed name was pinned to the back of a high-backed red chair, which was then adorned with a cushion and placed at the center of a long table. He entered, dressed in a black salwar kameez, the traditional long tunic and pants, and Armani glasses, biting his lips and carrying a portrait of his mother. He promised to carry on his mother’s legacy as "a symbol of the federation."

Rehman Malik, a senior party official, said Bhutto had asked him to coach her son in the basic workings of politics and government, from teaching him how to assess others to taking him to the halls of Parliament.

"She has groomed up her husband," he said. "She was grooming her son also. She was telling me many times he will grow up and take over the party."

For his part, the younger Zardari said he had discussed with his mother the prospects of entering politics, but avoided getting into details about who would take over after her. "We always tried not to have this specific conversation because we hoped this day would come, if not never, then far, far in the future," he said.

The more pertinent question is whether this will make Pakistan more stable. Suicide bombers again detonated themselves, and to investigate Ms. Bhutto’s assassination.

The growing questions about Bhutto’s assassination have led to calls for an international, independent investigation. While the government dismissed that idea, U.S. officials said Pakistan was quietly consulting with other countries about the conduct of the probe, suggesting the country wants to ensure its findings are seen as credible.

Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema defended the government’s ability to carry out its investigation. He said an independent judicial probe should be completed within seven days of the appointment of its presiding judge.

"This is not an ordinary criminal matter in which we require assistance of the international community. I think we are capable of handling it," he said.

Would a less aristocratic Pakistan be any moe likely to face this issue? Even if Pakistan were stable in the way India is, would bureaucrats want to disclose their secrets any more readily?

WP 2.3.2 Upgrade in Progress (Updated)

31 Dec

(11:31) Upgrade is complete. Due to a slow connection and some server problems, it took awhile and some TLC!

I will start the upgrading process for WP 2.3.2 in a few minutes. Please excuse the inconvenience.

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