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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Category: Pakistan
Palestine: Cabinet Reshuffle As Elections Called, Saeb Erekat Resigns
February 14th, 2011 by Alec
As Egyptian inspired protests have spread across the Arab world, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced on Monday the dissolution of his 24 member cabinet.  A cabinet reshuffle has been a goal of Fayyad for some time, as only 16 of the 24 portfolios had been filled, with the cabinet largely being viewed as “dysfunctional.”  The posts are to be filled within six weeks. This announcement comes ahead of presidential elections scheduled to be held by September.  Presidential elections had been put on permanent hold since 2009, when current Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s term was to have ended, in order to avoid a power vacuum after Hamas took power in the Gaza Strip in 2007.
Meanwhile, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has resigned as a result of revelations from the “Palestine Papers” released by Al-Jazeera and The Guardian.   Erekat said he hoped his stepping down would set a model of transparency in Palestinian governance.  He went on to accuse Qatar, the primary financier of Al-Jazeera and home to the network’s headquarters, of investing in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Posted in Elections, Pakistan, Reform | Comment »
Pakistan: A “Defective Democratic System”
October 18th, 2010 by Jason
Bilal Hussain writes at the Guardian’s Comment is Free that democracy in Pakistan only serves as “an interval before the arrival of the next military regime.” Hussain attributes the weakness of democracy in Pakistan to “age-old feudal, tribal and panchayat systems,” that retain their influence over politics in the country to this day. Hussein focuses primarily on the feudal system, whereby  elites are elected to office solely “on the basis of their birth in a particular family, caste or place.” The result of this system, aside from inefficiency and ineffective governance, is “[a]lienation and disengagement from politics.” Hussain describes the reality of Pakistani democracy as he sees it: “Today, democracy is more seen as a peaceful way of tyranny and suppression; a reductionist version of justice, a fallacious idea of the rule of law and a deceptive concept of equality before law. Those who once comforted themselves that a democratic government would never let all this happen might now abandon a last delusion, that their freedom is inviolable. From liberty to equality, fraternity to sovereignty, an independent judiciary to the rights of the people, all are denied and demonised by the defective democratic system.”
Posted in Civil Society, Pakistan | Comment »
Pakistan: U.S. Should Improve Funding of Pakistani Education Sector
October 1st, 2010 by Anna
At the Center for Global Development’s “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance” blog, senior policy analyst Molly Kinder focuses on U.S. funding for the Pakistani education system. The quality of that system, she points out, will “profoundly impact the country’s internal stability, security, and prosperity.” Kinder asserts that although Washington has promised $335 million in aid to support education (making USAID’s education program in Pakistan its largest worldwide), “money alone is not the solution to Pakistan’s underperforming education system.” Rather, the issue is how that money is spent. Aid should be used to support “innovation, transparency, and accountability” in the education sector, she writes.
In a recent open letter from the Center for Global Development’s president Nancy Birdsall to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Birdsall recommends that policymakers from both the U.S. and Pakistan set benchmarks to measure success, provide better information to parents about educational options for their children, and increase investments in science and technology education.
Posted in Foreign Aid, Pakistan, Reform, US foreign policy | Comment »
Pakistan: Economic Woe Prompts Criticism From Military, US
September 29th, 2010 by Jason
The recent catastrophic flooding in Pakistan has caused tensions to rise between that country’s civilian government and it’s military. Jane Perlez writes in The New York Times that the seeming incompetence of President Asif Ali Zardari’s government has brought the question of a return to military rule back into play: “In a meeting on Monday[…]the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, confronted the president and his prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, over incompetence and corruption in the government[…]the meeting was widely interpreted by the Pakistani news media[…]as a rebuke to the civilian politicians and as having pushed the government to the brink.”
Economic factors have also played a role in the row between the military and civilian leaders in Pakistan. Perlez reports that in a recent meeting, finance minister Hafiz Shaikh told a group of civilians and military officers that the Pakistani government had “enough money to pay only two months’ salaries,” due in part to the country’s inability to collect enough taxes. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed this very issue yesterday at a gathering in Washington. Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy’s The Cable quotes Sec. Clinton: “‘Pakistan cannot have a tax rate of 9 percent of GDP when land owners and all of the other elites do not pay anything or pay so little it’s laughable, and then when there’s a problem everybody expects the United States and others to come in and help.’”
Posted in Military, Pakistan, Public Opinion, US foreign policy | Comment »
Pakistan: Political Rumblings in Islamabad
September 23rd, 2010 by Evan
In a new piece, Al Jazeera’s Pakistan correspondent Kamal Hyder reports that many in Islamabad are questioning the strength of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and some are actively working to bring about its demise. “The word revolution is now resounding inside the plush drawing rooms of Pakistan’s leafy capital,” writes Hyder, adding “No one knows if there will be a revolution or not, but in the event of it happening one thing is quite clear - this will be branded a revolution with a local and indigenous Pakistani seal. And it will carry with it a major backlash against opulent and corrupt rulers who have for decades betrayed the trust of these proud people.”
Posted in Pakistan, Political Parties | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Evaluating the State of Democracy in Pakistan”
September 23rd, 2010 by Jason
The United States Institute of Peace held a panel discussion Wednesday titled “Evaluating the State of Democracy in Pakistan”. The event was moderated by Moeed Yusuf, South Asia adviser and manager of the Pakistan program at USIP. The panel members were Mohammad Waseem, currently a visiting fellow at the Brooking Institution and professor of political science at Lahore University, Shahid Javed Burki, a former Senior Economist at the World Bank and current Senior Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and Sheila Fruman, Senior Country Director for Pakistan at the National Democratic Institute from 2006-2010.
(To read full notes, continue below the fold or click here for pdf.)
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Civil Society, DC Event Notes, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Military, Pakistan, Political Parties, Public Opinion, Taliban, US foreign policy | Comment »
Pakistan: Musharraf Returns
September 16th, 2010 by Jason
Owais Tahid reports in the Christian Science Monitor that former president and military commander Pervez Musharraf plans to return to Pakistan to lead a new political party called the All Pakistan Muslim League. Musharraf claims to have wide support among the young people in Pakistan, pointing to his 300,000 Facebook followers as proof. Musharraf may face criminal charges upon his return. The government-run Associated Press of Pakistan reports that cases have been filed against the former president, and according to one official, the law would “take it’s course” should Musharraf return to Pakistan.
Posted in Pakistan, Political Parties | Comment »
Pakistan: Democracy “Fake,” Needs Stronger State Institutions
September 13th, 2010 by Anna
In an interview with Viktor Kaspruk of the Ukrainian Week yesterday, public policy commentator and broadcaster Ahmed Quraishi lamented the lack of “real leaders” and self-confidence in Pakistan, calling democracy in the country “fake.” He contended that there is a “huge” governance problem in the country, criticizing a political system that is “run by families” and praising the Pakistani military for breaking ruling families’ monopoly in government. In his view, democratic reform in Pakistan must wait until the fractured state leadership is consolidated. He asserted that leaders should focus on building institutions first, adding: “In Pakistan, we need a visionary nationalistic leadership at the top backed by the strength of the Pakistani military.” Quraishi contrasted former president Pervez Musharraf and Russian president Vladimir Putin, praising the latter for “reassert[ing] Russia’s power.”
Posted in Military, Pakistan, Political Parties, Reform | Comment »
Pakistan: Return to Authoritarianism?
September 9th, 2010 by Evan
In Dawn columnist I.A. Rehman​writes that Pakistani democracy is under threat from “privileged politicians” who believe the country should return to a more authoritarian system of governance following the flood crisis. These critics claim that Pakistan’s democratic system has not provided for citizens and the country needs “an honest general” to clean house and establish order. Rehman counters that the challenges Pakistan faces today are actually the result of previous periods of authoritarian rule: “To a large extent the authoritarian rulers who were in power for 32 out of the last 63 years are responsible for the mess the people find impossible to bear. […] The worst crime of Pakistan’s narrow-minded dictators is that by suppressing normal politics they destroyed the roots of democracy.”
Posted in Pakistan | Comment »
POMED Notes: New America Foundation “A New Way Forward? Rethinking U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan”
September 8th, 2010 by Jason
The New America Foundation held a panel discussion today to introduce the Afghanistan Study Group’s paper, “A New Way Forward: Rethinking U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan”. (PDF here) The panel members were all members of the study group, although not all of them signed the finished product making for an interesting discussion. The panel included Paul Pillar (Director of Graduate Studies, Center for Peace and Security Studies, Georgetown University and former intelligence officer), Matthew Hoh (Former Foreign Service Officer and Marine, Director, Afghanistan Study Group), Steve Coll (President of the New America Foundation), Brian Katulis (Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress), Charles Kupchan (Whitney Shepardson Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Professor of International Affairs, Georgetown University,Author, How Enemies Become Friends), Darcy Burner (Director, American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation), Robert Pape (Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago Director, Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism Author, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism), and the event was moderated by Steve Clemons (Director, American Strategy Program, New America Foundation Publisher, The Washington Note).
 (Continue below the fold for full notes or click here for PDF)
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Afghanistan, Civil Society, DC Event Notes, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Human Rights, Islamist movements, Military, NGOs, Pakistan, Sectarianism​, Taliban, US foreign policy | Comment »
Pakistan: Flood Response Damages Government’s Credibility
September 1st, 2010 by Anna
Amidst domestic perceptions that the Pakistani government’s response to the continuing flood crisis has been inadequate, some observers have asked whether the disaster will affect the country’s political future. Issam Ahmed​writes in the Christian Science Monitor that President Asif Ali Zardari’s decision to continue his tour of Europe as the crisis grew “enraged ordinary Pakistanis.” This, in addition to the slow pace with which politicians addressed their constituents’ needs and the general sense that corruption plagues Pakistani politics, has increased “momentum in favor of military rule…among Pakistan’s upper-middle classes.” There is a growing perception that “at least the Army gets the job done” and is less corrupt than civilian politicians. According to one interviewee, the military is “pretty happy and pretty comfortable seeing the civilian process bleed like this.” Although positive perceptions of the military seem to be on the rise in Pakistan, some observers contend that no government, civilian or military, can truly meet popular expectations.
Posted in Military, Pakistan, Political Parties, Public Opinion | Comment »
Pakistan: The Next Indonesia?
August 31st, 2010 by Evan
Writing in The New Yorker, Steve Coll suggests that for all of Pakistan’s problems, there is a way forward. According to Coll, Pakistan must first seek peace with India and then develop a stronger, export-based economy. Coll cites Indonesia’s experience as a potential model: “Indonesia, which, like Pakistan, has a large Muslim population and implausible borders left behind by imperialists, suffered badly a decade ago from separatist violence, Al Qaeda-linked Islamist terrorists, and poisonous civil-military relations. By riding Southeast Asia’s economic boom, Indonesia has become a comparably bland, democratic archipelago.”
Posted in Pakistan, Taliban, al-Qaeda | Comment »
Pakistan: Flooding Poses Grave Threat to Democracy
August 27th, 2010 by Evan
Asian News International​highlights how the recent flooding in Pakistan and the perceived inability of the government to respond are undermining the country’s already tenuous democratic system. According to the author, the crisis may strengthen the military’s authority in Pakistan while weakening the civilian government:  “The catastrophe, which has been stamped as the country’s worst natural disaster ever, could have far reaching effects weakening its already fragile democratic set up and increasing the pressure on the ‘powerful’ military.”
Posted in Pakistan, Reform | Comment »
Afghanistan: The “Faustian Pact”
August 26th, 2010 by Jason
At Democracy Digest, Michael Allen covers a recent Brookings Institution event featuring Steve Coll, Vali Nasr, and Michael O’Hanlon, exploring the effectiveness of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. According to Coll, NATO has made a “Faustian Pact” with local warlords by sacrificing the long term development of civil society for short term security gains. Coll also expressed concern that too much emphasis is being paid to centralization at the cost of local governance. O’ Hanlon noted that the Afghan people are generally supportive of the central government, while Nasr emphasized the importance of Pakistan in any calculations of the region.
Posted in Afghanistan, Civil Society, Pakistan, Taliban | Comment »
Pakistan: Disaster Relief and Political Disarray
August 23rd, 2010 by Farid
Daud Khattak writes in Foreign Policy that in the midst of the flood crisis in Pakistan, fears of targeted killings by the Taliban have not only sent key secular leaders into hiding, but also contributed to a lack of leadership in the Peshawar province, providing “an opening for religious and pro-Taliban elements to win the hearts and minds of the hundreds of thousands in the area.” Pointing out the ineffectiveness of local and central governments in assisting the victims of the flood, Khattak argues that Islamists have stepped in and “used their relief efforts as a propaganda opportunity,” instructing locals that the flood “occurred because Pakistanis have not obeyed God or implemented sharia.” With the secular parties under threat from the Taliban, Khattar writes that “not a single elected government in Pakistan has completed its five-year term since 1988,” adding that “religious movements that keep secular parties from providing services to their constituents will only help ensure that after the next elections it will be the religious parties governing in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.”
Posted in Elections, Islamist movements, Pakistan, Political Parties, Taliban | Comment »
Pakistan: Shift in Military-Civilian Power?
July 26th, 2010 by Jennifer
Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has decided to extend the term of his military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, by three more years, in light of Pakistan’s ongoing campaign against the Taliban. The extension is the first of its kind with a civilian government in power, and has sparked concerns that the decision may undermine the authority of the parliament.  Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani Army general and a military analyst, dismisses such concerns, arguing that “the extension has been given not for political reasons but for professional reasons,” and adding that Kayani has “been a supporter of democracy.” However, according to Rasul Baksh Raaes, a political analyst at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, the decision shows that “the civilian leaders have failed to establish their constitutional supremacy over the military and the military remains a very powerful institution.” According to Omar Waraich​writing in Time, the decision represents an indication that “the civilian government is too unpopular and too weak to resist a powerful army chief’s whims” and has made Kayani “the most powerful man in the country.” Waraich explains that although Kayani has avoided overtly interfering in political affairs, he nevertheless holds enormous clout, quoting the analysis of editor-in-chief of the Friday Times Najam Sethi, who has argued that “‘when it comes to policy in regards to the U.S., Afghanistan and India, it is General Kayani who is calling the shots.’” Arguing that the U.S. will likely support the decision given the critical stage of the conflict in Afghanistan, and noting that a previous extension on military leadership in Pakistani history led to a series of dictatorships, Waraich says that “the episode repeats a familiar cycle, in which the geopolitical agendas of others inevitably put military men in power.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Military, Pakistan, US foreign policy | Comment »
Pakistan: Is Democracy Possible?
June 29th, 2010 by Farid
In a New York Times op-ed, Jeffrey Gedmin, president of Radio Free Liberty/Radio Liberty, and Abubakar Siddique, a senior correspondent​, shed light on Pakistan’s quest for democracy.  While it may appear quite difficult to achieve a consolidated democracy in Pakistan, due to its lack of security and financial stability, Gedmin and Siddique seem optimistic about the potential for a future democratic culture to arise in the country.
However, Gedmin and Siddique recognize two major obstacles in that regard: The role of the Pakistani military and the “nascent civil society.” As the Pakistani military has always been very influential in internal as well as international issues, it has impeded the democratization process, Gedmin and Siddique argue. Yet, as extremist forces have become a significant threat to the Pakistani domestic political order, the military has been forced to modify its influence in internal political affairs. Also, since civil society is a new phenomenon in Pakistan, there is an urgent need for “robust support for free, professional, responsible media,” Gedmin and Siddique suggest, adding that the U.S. must also engage in dialogue with the religious establishment of the country. Their inclusion in the process is vital for a pluralistic Pakistani state to be democratic, they argue.
Posted in Pakistan, US foreign policy | Comment »
Pakistan: Court Orders Ban on YouTube, 8 Other Sites
June 23rd, 2010 by Jennifer
A Pakistani court on Wednesday ordered authorities to block video sharing on networks including YouTube, Yahoo, MSN, Hotmail, Google, Islam Exposed, In The Name Of Allah, Amazon, and Bing, due to the judge’s evaluation that the sites contain “blasphemous material against Allah, Prophet Mohammad and the Quran.” Latif ur Rehman, a Pakistani lawyer, reportedly submitted materials obtained from the sites to the court and filed a petition seeking the adoption of increased internet restrictions. According to Reuters, if the order is enforced, all major web-based email services, every major search engine, and the top shopping site on the Internet would be blocked in Pakistan.
The judge, Mazhar Iqbal Sidhu, ordered the Ministry of Information and Technology to have the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) block the websites. An official at the Ministry indicated that his office would comply with the court’s order once they received it in written form.
The ruling comes on the heels of another court decision last month, which ordered Pakistani authorities to block social networking sites such as Facebook for almost two weeks in protest of a page encouraging users to post caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad. Visual depiction of the Prophet is offensive in Islam.
Posted in Freedom, Judiciary, Pakistan | Comment »
POMED Notes: “The United States and Turkey: A View from the Obama Administration”
March 17th, 2010 by Chanan
The Brookings Institution, in collaboration with Sabanci University, held the sixth annual Sakip Sabanci Lecture with Philip H. Gordon, Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs, to discuss the Obama administration’s perspective on Turkey, its relationship with the United States and the European Union, and its role across the Middle East and throughout the world.
For POMED’s notes in PDF, click here. Otherwise, continue reading below.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Afghanistan, DC Event Notes, EU, Iran, Iraq, Islam and Democracy, Israel, Middle Eastern Media, Pakistan, Political Parties, Turkey, Uncategorized​, sanctions | Comment »
AfPak: Corruption and Graft
December 18th, 2009 by Jason
Simon Tisdall argues corruption is a larger and more difficult problem than most people realize. He cites Lorenzo Delesgues of Integrity Watch who observes that some USAID programs lose up to 90 cents on the dollar to corruption and fraud.
Juan Cole relays several articles from Afghanistan translated by the USG Open source Center on economic development​. Among many other topics, there are articles concerning a fatwa against poppies, the growing role of China, and obstacles to trade with Pakistan.
In addition, Cole discusses a recent travel ban on Pakistan’s interior minister due to charges of graft. While some analysts have fed into the “hysteria” of a coup, Cole interprets the development instead as “an outbreak of the civil rule of law.” He argues “the rule of law is more important for the structural integrity of Pakistani society and politics than the back door deals of the Musharrafs, Bushes, Rices, and Cheneys.”
However, Omar Waraich in Time calls the renewal of the corruption case against President Zardari “bad news” for the U.S.
Posted in Afghanistan, Foreign Aid, Judiciary, Military, Pakistan, Taliban, US foreign policy, United Nations | Comment »
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