Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

THE OBSERVERS

More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

#TECH 24

Changing the world, one video game at a time

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Socialist Party summer conference kicks off in explosive atmosphere

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Canada and Russia exchange snarky tweets

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Ebola in Nigeria: First death outside of Lagos

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Niger: Top opposition figure to be questioned in baby-trafficking scandal

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Liberia: President dismisses top officials who ignored call to return home

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Google rivals Amazon with delivery drone tests

Read more

DEBATE

How to Stop Ebola: WHO Says Cases Could Exceed 20,000 (part 2)

Read more

  • First case of Ebola confirmed in Senegal

    Read more

  • Ukraine to relaunch NATO membership bid

    Read more

  • France shines in IMF list of world’s promising economists

    Read more

  • Mapping Ukraine: Canada and Russia in ‘tweet for tat’ row

    Read more

  • Obama has 'no strategy yet' on potential Syria strikes

    Read more

  • Netflix to woo French with ‘House of Cards’ set in Marseille

    Read more

  • French businesses ‘hoping for a new Thatcher’

    Read more

  • Syrian refugees surpass 3 million, UN says

    Read more

  • West backs Ukrainian claims of Russian incursion

    Read more

  • Libyan PM resigns as Islamists set up rival administration

    Read more

  • UN says 43 peacekeepers captured in Golan Heights

    Read more

  • The deleted tweets of Manuel Valls

    Read more

  • Peru seizes record 6.5 tonnes of Europe-bound cocaine

    Read more

  • Pakistan army to mediate between PM, protesters

    Read more

  • PSG face Barcelona, Ajax in tough Champions League draw

    Read more

  • In pictures: Billions of locusts invade Madagascan capital

    Read more

  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie say ‘I do’ in France

    Read more

  • Erdogan sworn in as Turkey's president

    Read more

  • Assad cannot be partner in fight against terrorism, says Hollande

    Read more

Asia-pacific

Nation haunted by old demons of corruption and military rule

Text by Matthieu MABIN

Latest update : 2009-12-29

Pakistan had hoped for a shift to more transparent and democratic governance when President Azif Ali Zardari came to power in 2008, nine months after his wife Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. But two years on, these hopes remain unfulfilled.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari came to power in Sept. 2008, sparking hopes of a regime change in authoritarian Pakistan. Fifteen months down the line, he has become an isolated, weakened and unpopular leader.

Buried away in Islamabad’s vast presidential palace, the husband of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who rose to power after her assassination in December 2007, is now a lame duck president.

On Dec. 17, Zardari suffered a serious blow when his country’s Supreme Court cancelled a 2007 amnesty law that shielded himself and several of his ministers from facing corruption charges. The bill had been forced onto the Pakistani parliament during the presidency of Zardari’s predecessor, Pervez Musharraf, and extended its protection to some 8,000 high-ranking officials suspected of corruption.

“How could we accept that these people stay in power without answering to the justice system? They should resign, clarify their situation and, if they are acquitted, return to office,” comments Marvi Memon, a young opposition lawmaker.

But President Zardari does not seem ready to leave any time soon: he claims he cannot resign from office because of his country’s “instability”.

Meanwhile, the army pulls the strings

With Zardari's election had come hopes of more transparent and democratic governance in Pakistan. But his administration remains riddled with corruption and military leaders continue to pull the country’s strings from the shadows.

The army remains a highly influential and powerful body in Pakistan to this day. The country experienced four military coups in the past 60 years, the last of which was carried out by former General Pervez Musharraf in 1999. At the time, the military strongman had argued that it was the army’s duty to take control in a country where political leaders were “corrupt and unable to govern”. Some observers are quick to say that Pakistan today is in a very similar situation.

Pakistani military chief Ashfaq Kayani, observers say, reportedly plays a very active role in national affairs. Last winter, for example, his intervention stopped 10,000 opposition protesters from storming the presidential palace.

Kayani has gradually emerged as the last guarantor of some kind of stability in Islamabad, where leadership is poisoned by business rackets and corruption. Although Kayani officially has no presidential ambitions, he has become the regime’s unavoidable de facto strongman. His pro-democratic views are appreciated by Western democrats, making him Washington’s main contact and ally in Islamabad. He devised key anti-terrorism strategies with US officials, reporting to Zardari only once he had made most key decisions.

Next year, however, Kayani will reach the army’s mandatory retirement age and be forced to step down. Kayani's retirement is certain but if Zardari resigns, the country could well experience two significant regime changes in less than a year, leading to a period of even greater uncertainty.

 


 

Date created : 2009-12-29

COMMENT(S)