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Posts Tagged Corrupt Asif Zardari

NAWAZ ”KHUGOO” SHARIF BIOGRAPHY: THE THUG OF 21ST CENTURY

NAWAZ”KHUGOO” SHARIF BIOGRAPHY: THE THUG OF 21ST CENTURY

 

 

WHO IS NAWAZ “KUGOO” SHARIF? A BIOGRAPHY

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Nawaz Sharif is widely acknowledged to be a highly incompetent person, with a low mediocre IQ. level. The brain behind him was that of his late “Abba Jee” (‘daddy’) – the mastermind and the main decision maker behind the scene.

The following is an excellent programme exposing some of the corruption conducted by Nawaz Sharif by the host of DM Digital, Farhan Aslam, who also used to work for ARY Digital a few years ago. The report has been divided into six segments

After that Nawaz Sharif had completed his education, in the 3rd division in B.A from Govt College, Lahore as he got admission in Govt College Lahore, on recommendations, and he used to be called in the class as “Kuggoo’ because he never used to participate in the class nor replied to any question he has ever been asked by the lecturer, told by his class mates.

Unknown-49His father Mian Muhammad Sharif started him in the business. However, this proved a disaster. As a second option Mian Muhammad Sharif set him up with Pakistani actor Saeed Khan Rangeela to get him into acting (something which Nawaz Sharif wanted). A few days later Saeed Khan Rangeela sent his regrets to Mian Muhammad Sharif saying that his son was too dumb for acting and movie industry. Mian Muhammad Sharif then hired cricket coaches to train his son for cricket, but his physical fitness was too low for the sport. It is rumored that by mid-day on his first day at training Nawaz Sharif threw the bat down and left the stadium saying, “This is too tough for me.”

As a last resort he paid General Ghulam Jilani Khan a considerable sum of money to introduce Nawaz Sharif to General Zia-ul-Haq recommending him for a political post, who in turn made Nawaz Sharif the Finance Minister of Punjab.
( Gen. Gilani was not offered money, in fact he had been presented a ‘White Palace’ made on a 4-kanal corner plot in Lahore Cant and it was worth Rs. 4 crores then, a s said. It was just beautiful with Victorian style round porch with a running fountain in the center. But Mian Sharif, being business man, recovered many ’4 crores’ out of the son’s post of Finance Minister of Punjab, and it was sure that Nawaz Sharif would not be able to write his designation with correct spellings )

However, this was the day when the street thugs of Mohni Road had stepped on to becoming the national thugs of Pakistan.

After that Nawaz Sharif had completed his education, in the 3rd division in B.A from Govt College, Lahore as he got admission in Govt College Lahore, on recommendations, and he used to be called in the class as “Kugoo’ because he never used to participate in the class nor replied to any question he has ever been asked by the lecturer, told by his class mates.

His father Mian Muhammad Sharif started him in the business. However, this proved a disaster. As a second option Mian Muhammad Sharif set him up with Pakistani actor Saeed Khan Rangeela to get him into acting (something which Nawaz Sharif wanted). A few days later Saeed Khan Rangeela sent his regrets to Mian Muhammad Sharif saying that his son was too dumb for acting and movie industry. Mian Muhammad Sharif then hired cricket coaches to train his son for cricket, but his physical fitness was too low for the sport. It is rumored that by mid-day on his first day at training Nawaz Sharif threw the bat down and left the stadium saying, “This is too tough for me.”

582452_313644852057916_984887607_nAs a last resort he paid General Ghulam Jilani Khan a considerable sum of money to introduce Nawaz Sharif to General Zia-ul-Haq recommending him for a political post, who in turn made Nawaz Sharif the Finance Minister of Punjab.
( Gen. Gilani was not offered money, in fact he had been presented a ‘White Palace’ made on a 4-kanal corner plot in Lahore Cant and it was worth Rs. 4 crores then, a s said. It was just beautiful with Victorian style round porch with a running fountain in the center. But Mian Sharif, being business man, recovered many ’4 crores’ out of the son’s post of Finance Minister of Punjab, and it was sure that Nawaz Sharif would not be able to write his designation with correct spellings )

However, this was the day when the street thugs of Mohni Road had stepped on to becoming the national thugs of Pakistan.

The day Nawaz Sharif had become Finance Minister, the entire family’s earnings were few million rupees and had only one re-rolling mill. From there they went on to: Ittefaq Sugar Mills was set up in 1982, Brothers steel in 1983, Brother’s Textile Mills in 1986, Brothers Sugar Mills Ltd in 1986, Ittefaq Textile units in 2-3 in 1987, Khalid Siraj Textile Mills in 1988, Ramzan Buksh Textiles in 1987, Farooq Barkat (pvt) Ltd in 1985. (All on loans from the government as Ziaul Haq used to sign on his loans requests and also on loan writing off requests. That is why when PPP Govt.took-over and the written off loans were calculated by the first Public Accounts Committee, there were two at the top i.e. Choudhy brothers, 22 billions, repeat billions and Mian Sharif 21 billion, all written off by Ziaul Haq. It is still on record in PAC Report of 1989.) By the time of Zia ul Haq’s fateful plane crash, Mian Muhammad Sharif’s family was earning a net profit of US$ 3 million, up from a few million rupees. By the end of the decade their net assets were worth more than 6 billion rupees, according to their own admission, nearly US$ 350 million at the time. But this turned out to be small-change when Nawaz Sharif became the Prime Minister.
When Nawaz Sharif became prime minister, the group took a decision to secure project loans from the foreign banks and only working capital was taken from the nationalized commercial banks. The project financing from foreign banks was ostensibly secured against the foreign currency deposits, a number of which were held in benamee accounts, as repeatedly claimed by Interior Minister Naseer Ullah Babar at his press conferences. In 1992 Salman Taseer released an account of Nawaz Sharif’s corruption stating that the family had taken loans of up to 12 billion rupees, which were never paid back. On March 2, 1994, Khalid Siraj, a cousin of Nawaz Sharif claimed that the assets of the seven brothers were valued at Rs 21 billion.
During the Afghan-Soviet War Nawaz Sharif’s cousin and brother-in-law, Sohail Zia Butt started working under the drug baron Mirza Iqbal Beg, then Pakistan’s second biggest drug lord after Ayub Afridi. Mian Muhammad Sharif and his sons had a permanent share in his gambling and heroin business. In 1990 Suhail Butt won a seat on the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad ticket in the Punjab Assembly. It was through Sohail Butt’s association that Nawaz Sharif became a close associate of Mirza Iqbal Beg. It was through him that Nawaz Sharif became benami owner of many of the privatized government entities, such as Muslim Commercial Bank. Sohail Zia Butt other than getting involved in the drug business made billions in the co-operative societies’ collapse, mainly through the National Industrial Credit and Finance Corporation. It was Nawaz Sharif’s share in his cousin’s drug business which he used to buy off the generals thereby delaying the inevitable dismissal of his government.
In 1995 when Mirza Iqbal Beg was imprisoned, Sohail Zia Butt took over his drug empire. It was at this time that he became one of the biggest drug and crime bosses in Pakistan and was nicknamed the “King of Heera Mandi” and at one time all six underworld gangs of Lahore were working under him.

By 1995 family’s declared annual profits from industrial units had increased 1500% from US$ 30 million to staggering US$ 400 million.

This is the short version of how in mere 15 years small street thugs running gambling dens became leaders of a country running narcotics, underworld and smuggling empires, untouched by everyone.
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part 2

Nawaz Sharif’s only agenda was to make money. In order to achieve this goal, he formed/changed laws and policies for his personal benefit and expanded his business empire by misusing his authority as Prime Minister. Interestingly enough and ironically, the PPP played a major role in exposing the corruption of Nawaz Sharif and his family. The Jamaat-e-Islami had also leveled a number of corruption allegations upon Nawaz Sharif. As we know, later Sharif and his cronies also played a role in exposing the corruption of Benazir Bhutto and her PPP. In other words, both Sharif and Bhutto have been busy over the years actively accusing each other of committing corruption.

Nawaz Sharif is widely acknowledged to be a highly incompetent person, with a low mediocre IQ. level. The brain behind him was that of his late “Abba Jee” (‘daddy’) – the mastermind and the main decision maker behind the scene.

In order to consolidate and attain more power, N. Sharif attacked every individual and institutions he felt could get in the way challenge his authority. In order to get rid of the then Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, who was despised by Sharif, the later created divisions among the judges to make life difficult for the Chief Justice. A group of judges refused to acknowledge Shah as the Chief Justice and things got so bad that a number of junior judges put hurdles in the way of the Chief Justice in order to make it difficult for him to carry out his duties. Eventually, Sharif ordered his thugs to attack the Supreme Court in order to prevent the Chief Justice from giving a ruling against him.

The police did nothing to stop Sharif’s thugs as they attacked and entered the Supreme Court. The judges inside the building barely managed to escape. The thugs, led by Sajjad Naseem and Mushtaq Tahir, Nawaz Sharif’s political secretaries, entered the court chanting anti-Sajjad slogans and destroyed the furniture.

Next, consider Nawaz Sharif’s relationship with the press and media. Two examples will suffice. On 8th May 1999, Najam Sethi, a prominent journalist of Pakistan, was arrested by the police on the orders of Sharif. Sethi has committed the crime of annoying Nawaz Sharif by writing a critical essay against him. The police broke into Sethi’s house at around 2 am and beat him up in his bedroom in front of his wife, after which he was transported off to a secret location. The police trashed Sethi’s house, broke the furniture and beat him up quite bad. Sethi was only released after a lot of international pressure had built up against Sharif. Sharif also demanded the Jang Group to get rid of all the journalists who were critical of him. To achieve this goal, Sharif and his cronies used a variety of legal and illegal means to pressure the Jang Group into compliance.

There is probably no institution in Pakistan which Nawaz Sharif did not aggressively confront in order make them comply to his wishes. Besides picking on a fight with the President, the Judiciary and the already restricted/limited media, Sharif also decided to have a confrontation with the army, the only viable institution left in Pakistan. Chief of Army Staff, General Jehangir Karamat, and Nawaz Sharif had a conflict over an issue pertaining to the national security council and both entered into a heated discussion, after which Gen. Karamat had to offer his resignation. Jehangir Karamat thus became the first Chief of Army Staff in the history of Pakistan to have left the army in this prematurely in this manner.

One by one all challenges and potential obstacles were removed from the way by Nawaz Sharif. Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Farooq Leghari, Sajjad Ali Shah, and Jehangir Karamat, as well as others, were all removed from the scene by Sharif.

After the removal of Jehangir Karamat, Sharif appointed Pervaiz Musharraf as the Chief of Army Staff. Some analysts at the time said that Sharif made this decision thinking that Pervaiz Musharraf was an Urdu speaker and did not belong to a Punjabi army family, thus very unlikely to be a threat to Sharif!

Things became sour between Sharif and Musharraf during the Kargil episode. Later, once a relative of Sharif was removed from the army by Musharraf, that was the final nail in the coffin. Sharif then decided to take his revenge and replace Gen. Musharraf with a fellow of his liking who would be controllable (the head of the ISI. at the time).

Those who think Nawaz Sharif is their leader should think twice. People of Pakistan can not be fooled by these thugs leaders in 21st century

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Raja Rental Pervez’s Gift: Lights Out

Lights Out

Pakistan’s chronic power shortagesUnknown-20

 

Energy shortages, much like any widespread natural disaster, affect everyone within a given geographic range. Unlike any controversial government mandate, or newly passed legislation, Pakistan’s power cuts do not discriminate. When the population at large is deprived of something widely considered to be a publicly provided good, a common, anti-government animosity can easily fester, transcending social, political or ethnic boundaries.
Pakistani automechanics at a market repair a car during a power shortage in Islamabad late 16 January, 2010.

Pakistani automechanics at a market repair a car during a power shortage in Islamabad late 16 January, 2010.

Pakistan is no stranger to power shortages. For the better part of the past decade, the country has been battling endemic energy droughts, as both consumer purchasing power and demand for electric goods have drastically risen in tandem. Insufficiently robust infrastructure has only compounded the persistent crisis over the years, as has the country’s publicly stated mandate to reduce its dependence on oil by pursuing hydroelectrically produced energy.

With the summer season fast approaching, however, the country once again finds itself mired in an electricity shortfall so serious, its effects may extend across not only economic and social spheres, but across Pakistan’s political architecture as well. 

Experts estimate that, to date, Pakistan remains some 4,000 megawatts short of its power needs—a full one-fourth of its maximum capacity. Although it’s not uncommon to find advertisements or text-messaged promotions for electric generators, such devices are normally priced well outside of most Pakistani budgets.

All across the country, markets and storefronts are closing early, houses are dark, and, for an estimated six hours per day, a wide swath of Pakistanis are disconnected from the world.

The pernicious impact on Pakistan’s economy, therefore, is all too self-evident. A 2008 report from the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics estimates that power outages have decreased output by 25 percent across textile factories in the province of Punjab, where much of Pakistan’s textile industry is concentrated.

Meanwhile, governmental response to the energy shortfall has often been heavy on rhetoric, but noticeably light on results. In 2009, Federal Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervaiz Ashraf boldly predicted that the country would enjoy steady access to power by the end of the summer, thanks to a slew of new plant facilities that were making their way down the pipeline.

In April, Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani unveiled an ambitious new energy policy, aimed at limiting individual power usage in a wide array of consumer and domestic settings, including neon-lit storefronts and wedding halls.

As the BBC reports, the country’s leaders are also looking into alternative sources of energy, in addition to the hydroelectric-generated power upon which most of the country relies. It has even been reported that the administration may choose to explore nuclear power as one such alternative.

The PM has also promised that his government will grab the crisis by the horns, and has assured that his administration will do everything within its power to further tighten usage quotas. With this new plan alone, officials are hoping to save an estimated 1,500 megawatts per day.

As Gilani bluntly affirmed, “We are taking these decisions in the best national interest.” For the average Pakistani consumer, however, results won’t be apparent until the lights are back on—and until they stay on.

Moreover, by taking such a proactive, top-down approach to tackling the shortage, Gilani and his government are implicitly assuming responsibility for the predicament. The onus is now on the country’s political leaders to not only save power, but to begin work toward installing newer, more sustainable infrastructure within its energy sector, in order to allow Pakistanis greater autonomy over their consumption patterns.

As history has taught us time and again, whenever a palpable miasma of discontent begins wafting through the streets and airways of a sovereign nation, political upheaval is never far behind. Economic hardship breeds social antagonism. And more often than not, that antagonism manifests itself in political tumult.

Some frustrated citizens have already begun voicing their displeasure with the outages in Pakistan, having vandalized cars and other personal property in protest. Time will tell whether or not the governmental leaders are able to douse these flames of acrimony, but the mere fact that citizens have begun taking to the streets in defiant action is still an ominous harbinger, by any country’s standards—and even more so in Pakistan.

A state historically plagued by its fractious ethnic and social composition now finds itself firmly entrenched within a decidedly more Manichean political landscape. At a very cursory glance, Pakistani politics has suddenly become substantially more binary, with upset citizens on one side of the aisle, and elected officials making promises on the other. But should Pakistan’s leaders fail to deliver solutions—and fail to do so quickly—the pupa of public restlessness may soon blossom into a full-blown, political pestilence.

Energy shortages, much like any widespread natural disaster, affect everyone within a given geographic range. Unlike any controversial government mandate, or newly passed legislation, Pakistan’s power cuts do not discriminate. When the population at large is deprived of something widely considered to be a publicly provided good, a common, anti-government animosity can easily fester, transcending social, political or ethnic boundaries.

It would be easy to write off Pakistan’s problems as part of the inexorable and often painful process of development. The country need look no further than next door in India, where, despite having enjoyed sustained and robust economic growth for the better part of two decades, the country still struggles mightily to develop public infrastructure efficient enough to keep up with its burgeoning economy and population. China, meanwhile, has likewise risen to the upper echelons of the world’s economic strata, yet continues to swim upstream against many of the same infrastructural growing pains.

The difference between Pakistan and India, China, or any other mid-level developing country, however, is that the majority Muslim nation’s political might is already stretched thin on one major international front.

It’s no secret that Pakistan is crucial to US military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan, and, according to many reports, the Obama administration has made significant progress in stabilizing the notoriously tumultuous Islamic Republic.

Any domestic discomposure spurred by energy-starved Pakistanis, however, could undermine that progress, effectively throwing a major wrench into the machinery powering the coalition-led war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The US, apparently aware of these potentially dire consequences, has already promised more than one billion dollars in energy aid to its critically important ally, through modernized distribution systems, as well as upgraded thermal and hydropower plants.

At this point, however, there’s no end in sight, and as the situation escalates, there’s no telling which party or faction could seize the issue, and use it to their own political gain. And with the impending summer heat raising tempers in concert with the thermometer, it’s impossible to predict how an exasperated voter constituency might respond.

Given the protean political and social winds that have blown across the country in recent years, however, injecting even the slightest modicum of uncertainty into such a brittle body politic is enough to raise the eyebrows of leaders from Islamabad to Washington. 

Electricity, in and of itself, may not be as fundamentally crucial a consumer need as say, clean water or food. But in today’s hyper-industrialized social and economic ecosystem, it’s more or less essential. And if the Pakistani government doesn’t act quickly to provide it on a level that measures up to contemporary standards, it may be “lights out” for many of the country’s incumbent leaders. 

 

Amar Toor – Freelance journalist and former consultant in the Trade and Agriculture Department of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

 

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M Fazal Elahi : Letter in support of Dr Qadri

In support of Dr Qadri

 

TAhirul-Padri.jpg

By Letter
Published: January 13, 2013
 

 

ISLAMABAD: Since the past couple of weeks, the entire country has been abuzz with news of Long March to Islamabad. This march is being led to the capital by none other than Allama Tahiru Qadri, a Pakistani scholar of international acclaim.

Announcement of the long march was made by Mr Qadri during his momentous address to a mammoth gathering of people at the Minar-e-Pakistan on December 23, 2012. Since his address, the Maulana seems to have become a household name in Pakistan. The reason for this is none other than the fact that whatever Mr Qadri has been talking about and demanding from those in power relates to the greater public good.

Undoubtedly, the nation is quite perturbed and to some extent also excited about this new development. Excruciatingly painful circumstances compel them to believe that Mr Qadri is perhaps, the messiah they have been waiting for all these years to resolve all their problems and liberate them from the clutches of the unjust rulers, who have ruled this country for over six decades. While people are excited, those at the citadel of power and those aspiring to be in power seem to be extremely anxious. They all agree on at least one point: that whatever Mr Qadri is talking about and demanding is what is urgently required to be done. They do not, however, believe that he is sincere in bringing about the change that he has been so vociferously asserting at all his recent speeches and press conferences.

These political groups also have doubts about Mr Qadri’s abilities to govern this country and blame him for playing with the emotions of the people through his use of rhetoric. Yet, another element that seems to be seriously tormenting the politicians of this country is the fear that Mr Qadri has, perhaps, come with a foreign agenda to derail democracy in Pakistan and pave the way for the non-democratic forces to grab power.

Whatever Mr Qadri’s detractors may say about him, the fact remains that he is talking about bringing true democracy to Pakistan, giving the people of this country the right to basic amenities of life; education, health, food, shelter and employment as enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, implementing all the clauses of the Constitution of Pakistan in letter and in spirit, empowering the masses to elect the right people to parliament, and empowering the chief election commissioner and the Election Commission of Pakistan to conduct free and fair elections.

Can anyone deny that all that Mr Qadri is saying is what has never been done, in tangible terms, before and needs to be done urgently? Can anyone also deny that true progress and prosperity of this nation and this country largely depend on implementing the measures that he is demanding be enacted? The appropriate thing to do at this critical juncture for like-minded and sincere elements belonging to all political groups, is to join hands and take the country and the people out of the quagmire they are at present in.

The journey may be long and arduous but for the sake of this country and this nation, it will have to be undertaken no matter what it takes.

 

REF

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FINANCIAL TIMES : Pakistan: A fragile transition

Pakistan: A fragile transition
 
 
December 19, 2012
 
The country is forging a stronger democratic foothold despite the threat of political, religious and economic unrest
 
image001The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is not a place where visitors expect to see billboards advertising “Liposuction, Tummy Tuck, Breast Reshaping” for middle-class women, let alone brothels to entertain middle-class men in a red-light district near the main mosque. They are both there in the sprawling commercial city of Lahore.
 
Nor is Pakistan a country where foreigners wary of Islamic extremism would necessarily envisage a politically correct gender studies centre such as the one at Quaid-i-Azam University in the capital Islamabad – where students, male and female, discuss everything from honour killings to reproductive rights.
 
To say that Pakistan has an image problem in the west is an understatement. A new Global Terrorism Index published by the Institute for Economics and Peace shows that Pakistan comes second only to Iraq in terms of terrorist violence because of “significant and widespread” attacks, mostly bombings and shootings. (Pakistan’s neighbours, Afghanistan and India, come third and fourth.)
 
Yet Pakistan is more diverse than outsiders tend to think and the beliefs of its 180m people are more heterogeneous than in many other nations that profess themselves Islamic. Women hold positions of power in politics, business and academia; mystical Muslims worship at Sufi shrines that are anathema to puritan Sunnis in the Saudi mould; and those who might be categorised as Islamic extremists have never won more than 12 per cent of the vote in a general election.
 
And now the country is preparing for a political event hailed by Pakistanis and their foreign allies alike as a democratic coming-of-age: for the first time since partition from India in 1947, an elected government is expected to complete a full term in office and make way for a new administration, also democratically elected.
 
The hope is that the armed forces will not intervene directly or indirectly as they have so often in the past. That would allow a fairly conventional democratic process to unfold, which would contribute to the stability not only of nuclear-armed Pakistan – the world’s sixth most populous nation – but also of the rest of south and central Asia just as western forces prepare to leave Afghanistan.
 
“It really doesn’t matter what the outcome of this election is, as long as it’s held in a credible, democratic manner,” says Samina Ahmed, south Asia project director for the International Crisis Group, an organisation that studies and seeks to resolve conflicts around the world. “These past four and a half years have been the first phase of a very fragile democratic transition.
 
“You already see a change, not necessarily in the balance of power between the civilians and the military,    but in a questioning of the military … This is now a public debate, and it’s taking place within parliament and outside parliament.”
 
No Pakistani, or foreign observer in Islamabad, suggests that it will be easy to build a credible democracy in such a violent, unstable and overpopulated country. Successive governments – including the present one under Asif Ali Zardari, the president whose wife Benazir Bhutto was assassinated five years ago – have become notorious for a combination of untrammelled corruption and economic mismanagement.
 
The army and the intelligence services, meanwhile, are accused either of complicity in Islamic terrorism (especially across the border in Afghanistan), or of incompetence in combating extremists, or both – a set of accusations only strengthened by the killing of Osama bin Laden by US special forces north of Islamabad last year.
 
“Today, we are living through the decisive moments of our history,” Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, head of the    Pakistani army, said in a gloomy speech in August to mark the 65th anniversary of independence. “Disillusionment, desperation, religious bigotry, political disharmony and discord seem to permeate our lives.”
 
A successful election – the vote is expected between mid-March and mid-May – might help to dispel that sense of foreboding. Ms Ahmed compares Pakistan’s situation after years of violence to Latin American countries such as Argentina as they emerged from military rule in the 1980s. “Where we’re at is the earliest phase of a Chile,” she says, meaning when the rule of law was weak and the armed forces still powerful.
 
Democracy in Pakistan – according to one western diplomat who draws comparisons not with South America but with the Middle East – is far from perfect but more developed than it is in Egypt. “At a time when democracy in other parts of the Muslim world is running into problems … there is something consolidating here against all the odds,” the diplomat says. “Something quite significant is happening here.”
 
The mere fact of a government finishing its allotted term and facing new elections is important, says another Pakistan-based diplomat. “It’s very hard for the outside world to understand how important that’s going to be … It changes intangibly the calculations of politicians and the military.”
 
Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Mr Zardari’s prime minister, boasts that the imminent completion of its term by the government of the Pakistan People’s party (PPP) is a “great achievement”. Flanked by photographs of the party’s martyrs – the slain Ms Bhutto and of her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the prime minister executed by Gen Mohammad Zia ul-Haq in 1979 – he says: “This the first time in history that the media is independent, the judiciary is independent, democracy is taking root, and elections are around the corner.”
 
Wishful thinking? Commentators argue that tentative optimism is well-founded because the cautious Gen Kayani does not want to intervene, the politicians out of power are not keen to invite him and the judges have been discouraged from lending legal support to any coup d’état by changes to the constitution since Mr Zardari won the election in 2008.
 
“There’s no room for a military takeover, none whatsoever,” says Shahbaz Sharif of the opposition Pakistan    Muslim League (Nawaz). He is younger brother of PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and chief minister of Punjab, the country’s most populous and economically dominant state. Pakistanis are eager to oust the PPP government through democratic means, he says, and the armed forces know in any case that a military takeover is no solution.
 
One sign of Pakistan’s maturing democracy is the political rise in recent years of Imran Khan, the successful Pakistani cricketer who has entered politics to challenge the dominant duo of the PPP and the PML-N. “Pakistan is passing through its worst time,” he said recently on a visit to India. “But I also see this as the best of times, because when we see such crises, there’s a desire for change … We represent change. People are fed up with the old political parties.”
 
Mr Khan has campaigned against US drone attacks aimed at militants on the Pakistani border with Afghanistan, not only because they kill civilians but also because they promote rather than prevent extremism in Pakistan. His moderate party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI – Movement for Justice) is popular among young, middle-class voters, and although support seems to have waned over recent months, it could hold the balance of power after the next election.
 
Any analysis of Pakistani politics needs two important qualifications. First, the way government functions – or fails to function – is barely comparable with the genteel democracy practised today in the west. As Anatol Lieven remarks in his book Pakistan: A Hard Country the system revolves around patronage and clan loyalties, and there has been surprisingly little difference between Pakistan’s civilian regimes and its military ones.
 
The second point to emphasise is that democratisation is constantly threatened by the sheer scale of the domestic political, religious and economic difficulties, not to mention the risk of further instability in neighbouring Afghanistan and Iran. Extremists – often, but not always, Saudi-influenced Sunnis – have with impunity attacked Shias, Christians, Hindus and other Sunnis, in a country where tolerant, middle-aged Muslims recall childhoods when they neither knew nor cared which sect their friends and neighbours belonged to.
 
An attempt in October by the Pakistani Taliban to murder Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl who campaigned for girls’ education, did provoke a series of outraged public protests against extremists, but the popular backlash shows no sign of bringing such violence to an end. The murder of eight health workers administering polio vaccines this week has also drawn international attention to the virulence of extremists in Pakistan.
 
“The Malala incident is an eye-opener,” says P.J. Mir, a prominent television presenter. “Everybody hates terrorism in this country. Everybody despises the brutality of these people. [But] the Supreme Court of this country, has it convicted even one terrorist?” Judges, he says, are too frightened to act, the Pakistani economy is in “meltdown” and politics is about money and family rather than real democracy. As for elections: “It won’t make any difference. It will be the same people, the status quo, and then the military will move in. There has to be a coup.”
 
Pakistan: A fragile transition
“But,” he adds, “I don’t back this policy of the military stepping in every now and then. I feel it’s better to go through this democratic process – even with the setbacks and the ups and downs.” Millions of Pakistanis agree. The question now is whether the three groups who wield most power – the politicians, the generals and the Islamic extremists – will allow those hopes to be fulfilled.

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