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    South Asia
     Aug 14, '14

Parades in Pakistan's political circus
By Muhammad Asim

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

The twin anti-government marches that have put Islamabad in lockdown for Pakistan's Independence Day on August 14 are ostensibly aimed at corruption, but are likely to prove nothing more than distraction from deeper woes. Leaders of the two parties leading the marches, Imran Khan of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Tahir Ul Qadri of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) are working to establish confidence in the existing system by

attacking an individual when they should be tackling flawed institutions.

Imran's most notable achievement to date is infusing life in Pakistan's democracy, a system that by repeatedly failing the people was on life support after the Zardari regime. By mobilizing the youth and selling them the slogan of "Naya Pakistan" (Wake up Pakistan) he reversed the chronic apathy that had taken root. He has also taken on the taking on power in the Pakistan Muslim League's hold on power.

The cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri's container antics in January 2013 - he staged a sit-in in from a yellow shipping container parked in front of Parliament - were in a similar vein, but appealed to a more religiously inclined and generally older and more conservative demographic within the population to that of Imran's.

Qadri, a long-term resident of Canada, returned all of a sudden with suspected military blessing to demand the dissolution of the Electoral commission and early dissolution of the National Assembly ahead of the General Election of 2013. At the time, he called for the military to be involved in picking a caretaker government - a sure fire way to spook anyone wanting to avoid another dictatorship.

However, a mere month later all of these demands were dropped. Perhaps much of pent up steam within the population against the antics of politicians were successfully released in his mass marches on Islamabad.

The objectives of the current PAT and PTI marches are to once again cement faith in the country's faltering democracy - in the face of pathetic results. A recent survey of 84 countries by the US Department of Agriculture's Economic Research service found that in 2012 Pakistanis were spending 47.7% of their income on food, the highest ratio of any of the countries surveyed.

Inflation is set to rocket once more as CNG, used in more than 4 million vehicles in the country, is set to be replaced by costly LNG fuel. This will lead to an estimated increase in fuel costs of around 28%.

This will not only affect the individual consumer but have an inflationary effect across the entire economy as the costs of transportation affect all goods.

It has always been lamented that there are no institutions in Pakistan and the electoral commission is seen as a key body that can be projected as making the democratic set up "accountable". But Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is going on nowhere on 14 August.

He is corrupt but then so is every other party. He is following the foreign agenda both on the economy and on foreign policy. Economically he is slavishly following the agenda of the IMF in selling off huge amounts of government assets ranging from areas in oil and gas, and telecoms to infrastructure for paltry bailouts.

As for foreign policy, he is happily pursuing America's war in Waziristan, an operation which has long been desired due to NATO admitting to the problem resistance fighters put up to its occupation of Afghanistan from Pakistan. To remove Nawaz is to put these endeavors at risk, something which America and its stooges in the military top brass would not allow. There is no appetite for the army to take over in any area of influence.

The drive ultimately aims to keep a circus going that distracts people from the main issues of being engaged in America's war in Waziristan, structural problems with the economy driven by a capitalist agenda and fundamental problems in the law-making process which continually enables thieves to occupy politics.

With an eye on the Middle East where people are beginning to question and are struggling against their secular overlords, it would be most untenable for the secular military-political establishment if public opinion is for the establishment of an Islamic System which would challenge not just their petty thrones but also the geo-political objectives of their Western masters.

The most realistic outcome of this charade is a reformed Electoral Commission of sorts. People will then have to again wait with baited breath for the next election in the circus that is politics in Pakistan.

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.

Muhammad Asim is a freelance columnist whose previous work can be found at http://mamuhammadasim.blogspot.co.uk/

(Copyright 2014 Muhammad Asim)

Pakistan's proclivity for war (Jul 28, '14)



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