Sunday, March 15, 2009

Finally, some good news

This is indeed good news:
ISLAMABAD, March 16 (Reuters) - Pakistan's government agreed on Monday to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry as chief justice to defuse a political crisis and end street agitation that threatened to turn into violent confrontation, officials said.

"Chaudhry will be restored, and there will also be a constitutional package," a government official with knowledge of the deal told Reuters.


Zardari finally conceded as the opposition leader and the lawyers held a day of protest in Lahore on Sunday, and set off for Islamabad for the climax of a series of protests they had dubbed "the Long March".

To stop them driving into Islamabad, authorities positioned containers and trucks across roads outside the capital.

Paramilitary troops are camped in a city sports complex and deployed at entry points, while, officials say, the army has been put on stand-by.
Pressure on the government has been growing for a while with the Pakistani news media (one of Musharraf's good legacies) focusing more and more attention on the "long march." The governments attempts to silence the media lead to the resignation of the information minister. Various senior members of the civilian bureaucracy resigned on Sunday to protest government suppression of the protesters. The civil society organizations and the various student organizations had also increased their pressure. Regardless, I think the deciding factors were probably the last point in the news report about the army being put on stand-by, and pressure from the US government. The army at various times in Pakistan's history has been brought out to put down popular unrest and the results have never been good - for the country or the army. The army is in a particularly vulnerable state right now with the mismanagement of the economy as well as their incompetent handling of the extremist threat fresh in people's minds. The US government has other things on its mind - most of them not good for Pakistan - and it really did not want the country's political unrest to interfere with their plans.

While this is good news it is hardly a panacea for all that ails Pakistan. Progress will not occur until the "feudals" are ready to give up some of their power to the people. The restoration of the chief justice might be an indication that the ruling elites are finally waking up to the fact that the collapse of Pakistan will probably mean a collapse of their lifestyles as well. At least one hopes that they are rational enough to see that. Rageh Omaar, in his book talks about how middle class Somali welcomed the armed uprisings in Somalia seeing them more as an adventure than anything else. They never thought their own positions in society could ever be shaken. This seems to be the story told by every elite to itself as the world falls to pieces around them. Perhaps the Pakistani elite will turn out to be smarter than their Somali counterparts.

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