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Pakistan Falling Apart?

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Photo Newly-appointed chairperson of the Pakistan People Peter Galbraith fears that the current turmoil in Pakistan may be the beginning of the end.

With the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s survival depends on the outcome of a struggle between the army and Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s party, now headed by her 19-year-old son Bilawal. The protagonists are mismatched and the odds are that Pakistan will not make it.

For all its flaws, the PPP is Pakistan’s only true national institution. As well as overwhelming support in the Bhutto family’s home province of Sindh, it has substantial support in Punjab and North-West Frontier Province. Like many south Asian political parties, it is a family affair, but it has an enduring platform: opposition to military rule.

Pakistan’s army has long defined itself as the guardian of the nation, and successive generals have used this role as their excuse to seize and hold power. But the army is not a national institution. Historically, the Punjab has produced 90% of the officer corps while the Sindh, with 25% of Pakistan’s population, is essentially unrepresented.

That the near-term hope for a democratic Pakistan rests with “an Oxford undergraduate with no political experience” is decidedly not inspiring. Nor, frankly, is the fact that “real power will lie with Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari, a controversial figure who has been mired in corruption allegations” any comfort.

It’s not entirely clear, however, that a democratic polity is the only definition of “making it.” Pakistan has, after all, mostly been ruled by the military — or with the prospect of same overshadowing a civilian ruler — for the entirety of its six decade history. While it’s hardly thriving, it continues to muddle on.

Photo credit: AFP – Aamir Qureshi

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    That the near-term hope for a democratic Pakistan rests with “an Oxford undergraduate with no political experience” is decidedly not inspiring. Nor, frankly, is the fact that “real power will lie with Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari, a controversial figure who has been mired in corruption allegations” any comfort.

    What it reveals is that the emperor had no clothes. Whatever was a longshot before Bhutto’s assassination looks even longer now.

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