June 27th, 2012
11:18 AM ET

Pakistan collapsing from within

Editor’s note: Javid Ahmad, a native of Kabul, is program coordinator with the Asia program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Mashail Malik, a native of Islamabad, is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Javid Ahmad and Mashail Malik.

By Javid Ahmad and Mashail Malik, Special to CNN

Tensions that flare between Pakistan's ineffective civilian government and influential judiciary reached an all-time high last week when the country’s Supreme Court disqualified Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from holding office.

The unprecedented ruling came less than two months after Gilani was charged with contempt for his refusal to ask the Swiss government to reopen corruption charges facing President Asif Ali Zardari. It was followed days later by parliament electing a replacement, Raja Pervez Ashraf, who has also been accused of corruption in the past.

These recent developments signify the deep rift between Pakistan's different internal institutions. Pakistan’s civilian government, the powerful military, the increasingly active judiciary, and the many opposition groups in the country are juggling varied and often deeply conflicting agendas.

One thing these internal forces have in common is that each wants to be at the center stage of Pakistan's political structure, and each wants to win the frustrated population's support. The cost of this power struggle, however, seems to be given little consideration by the players involved.

After Gilani was convicted, the speaker of Pakistan's parliament maintained that only parliament had the authority to disqualify Gilani from his post. But this did not stop the judiciary from ordering the Election Commission to declare him ineligible.

Both sides say they are defending Pakistan's nascent democracy, a claim that is also generously thrown around by members of other groups, including the influential military and the loud opposition. But by convicting a sitting prime minister, the Supreme Court has strongly challenged a long-standing unofficial tenet in Pakistan: those who rule are above the rule of law.

However, there is also the question of whether it is really the duty of the Supreme Court to take up a cause of dubious constitutional validity. (If Gilani had acquiesced to the court's demand to call on Swiss authorities, he would have directly violated the constitution, which clearly stipulates presidential immunity.)

The worry is that the court is overstepping its bounds and encroaching on to parliament and executive territory. The move, dubbed by some as a "judicial coup," is just another example of an unelected body directly challenging a democratically elected government in a fledgling democracy.

It would be imprudent to say that one side or the other is evidently right. But what is evident is what this conflict represents: a Pakistani state that is being pulled in different directions by internal forces catering to conflicting agendas, and where it is increasingly unclear where the real decision-making power rests. Gilani's removal in such turbulent times only intensifies the inter-institutional standoff that has characterized much of Pakistan's history.

Now what does all this mean for Pakistan and its allies?

This internal spectacle will likely affect negotiations with the U.S. over pressing issues such as the reopening of NATO supply routes. If the civilian government wants to make any serious concessions, the opposition will likely criticize the government and add to its already deep unpopularity. The government might then let the fear of this backlash impact their decision-making.

Also, the step taken by the Supreme Court epitomizes a wider, dangerous and historical trend in Pakistan: weak civilian governments find it difficult to command legitimacy and are constantly challenged by other internal institutions.

History repeats itself all the time in Pakistan, and this is not a good sign for a country where the average time an elected government stays in power is less than two years. In a relatively stable democracy, several institutions serve as checks and balances on one another. Pakistan, however, is a land of extremes — scarcely anything survives in the country without morphing into a dangerously virulent version of itself. The government is getting weaker and more ineffective, the judiciary is taking its activism up a notch, the opposition is getting louder and more obstructive by the minute, and so on.

In a country facing an economic crisis, an energy crisis and a growing population that far outstrips available resources, internal political strife is a time-consuming, distracting and often dangerous business.

In Pakistan, the news of Gilani's dismissal made it amply clear that the general population has gradually lost hope over the past decade. Hardly anyone seemed shocked, and not many cared either way.

"It means nothing," one becomes used to hearing. "Someone else will come in and do an equally terrible job."

Many people took to the streets over electricity shortages, not because the prime minister — considered by many to be a mere figurehead — was removed from office.

Such apathy is bad news for any country. But in all this chaos, there is still the opportunity to learn. Pakistani leaders should ponder that.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Javid Ahmad and Mashail Malik.

Topics: Pakistan • Politics

soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. krm1007 ©™

    PAKISTAN.....The New Gateway to Central Asia and Europe.

    With a population of over 180 million most of whom are well educated, English speaking, entrepreneurial and a cultural and social fit with Central Asians...Pakistan will now become the new face and gateway to Central Asia and Europe. Pakistan will thus span this region and provide the impetus for growth, prosperity and unity among these countries. These are new and exciting times for Pakistanis who should now look forward to their new leadership role aligned with Central Asia and Europe rather than the Subcontinent. We wish them much success as they have sacrificed the most during the past 30 + years creating a new world order.

    June 27, 2012 at 11:51 am | Reply
    • Dan

      @krm1007, Your sarcasm is inappropriate. Did you read the article? Pakistan is collapsing and you are being so sarcastic and making fun of their misery. Shame on you.

      June 27, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Reply
      • Dinesh Kapadia

        really? Come give me a hug. You could use some tender loving care

        June 27, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Haji Rajiv Patel

      It is a shame that China is kicking us Indians around like a football. Now they want to kick us out of the Chinese sea. Pakistan is already referring to the Indian ocean as the Pakistan Ocean. Americans have made us babysitters to Afghanistan and Bangladesh cleaning up and changing their diapers.. Maybe this fits our cowardly national character better.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
    • Dinesh Kapadia

      I am your biggest fan krm1007. Pls keep on enlightening us. I would appreciate if you would give us your foresight 10 yrs from hence re: South Central Asia. Peace.

      June 27, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Reply
    • Kathy

      Thanks much, Pakistan.

      June 28, 2012 at 11:01 am | Reply
  2. krm1007 ©™

    Pakistan is riding the wave to regional dominance….a phenomenon that is best described by Shakespeare as follows::::

    There is a tide in the affairs of men.
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are we now afloat,
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose our ventures.

    June 27, 2012 at 11:53 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Wishful thinking, krm 1007! Paksitan has to get its act together economically at home, before it gains regional dominance. Move on and bury the past. Let India invest in Paksitan. Militarily it isn't capable of fighting the anti-Pakistani Taliban insurgents of the TTP, which have fled over the border to Afghanistan. On the contrary it shelters the diehard fighters of the Haqqani network in North Waziristan and enrages the U.S. and its allies. The intelligence force ISI follows a different agenda than the civilian government and had instrumentalised the judiciary to settle the score with the cabinet for the so-called Memogate affair.

      June 27, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Reply
      • Dinesh Kapadia

        Jealous? Hmmm. You have finally shown your true colors. BTW your info is circa USSR era. Keep on reading krm1007 postings and get yourself a free education.

        June 27, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
      • beth

        hummmm! maybe you are jealous?

        June 28, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  3. krm1007 ©™

    Pakistan has tremendous potential and everyone knows it except the Pakistanis. A new layer of leadership has to emerge in all avenues to move this country forward. They don’t have to be rocket scientists… just nationalists. Pakistan has the capability of spinning on a dime. Now, does it take a wizard to figure out that people need electricity and running water to survive in this day and age? I hope not. Let’s start with this premise and the rest will fall in place.

    June 27, 2012 at 11:54 am | Reply
  4. Chang Ming Ling

    The afghani co-author should first start with thanking pakistanis for taking care of over 3million afghani refugees in pakistan....housing them, feeding them, educating them and giving them a place called home for the past 30 years. Unprecedented hospitality by any standards if i may. THANK YOU PAKISTAN.

    The pakistani co-author should go home and do something for his country. U of chicago is not going to help him find solutions as he offers none in this ranting here.

    June 27, 2012 at 11:59 am | Reply
    • ddpp

      yeah right Mr Ming Ling....Pakis are feeding 3 millions Afghan refugees from what they receive from USA and EU under humanitarian aid programs; of course, they pass only fraction of what they receive; most is eaten away by Paki corrupt politicians, government officers, armies, and Taliban fighters. BTW – how is weather in Beijing?

      June 27, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Reply
      • nina

        Kr1007 is also Chang Ming ling.

        June 27, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
      • Reprinted With Permission ©

        @Nina...MR. Chang Ming Ling to you....darling.

        June 27, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
      • Reprinted With Permission ©

        “NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Frustrated by a lack of opportunities in India, Germany's Fraport (FRAG.DE), the world's No. 2 airport operator, is shutting its development office in the country, the latest in a growing list of companies exiting Asia's third-largest economy.
        "When we came to India in 2006, we were actually extremely bullish about the market. We felt India had a lot of potential at that time," Ansgar Sickert, who heads Fraport's India operations, told Reuters in a telephone interview on Friday.
        "We were disappointed when none of these opportunities materialized," said Sickert.
        The list of companies to leave India includes telecoms carriers Etisalat ETEL.AD of Abu Dhabi and Bahrain Telecommunications Co BTEL.BH. Another firm, Norway's state-backed Telenor (TEL.OLhas threatened to pull out…..
        India definitely faces the threat of more foreign companies signaling an exit in the near future, as well as warding off new entrants. …
        According to a Nomura report last month, multinationals pulled $10.7 billion out of the country in 2011, up from $7.2 billion in 2010 and $3.1 billion in 2009.

        June 27, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
      • Chen Ming Wien

        The Aghori or Aghouri is a Hindu cult that is considered to have split off from the Kapalika order in the fourteenth century AD. They have cannibalistic rituals. The streets of northern Indian cities are littered with followers of this cult carrying a kapala, which is a cup made from a skull! These bizarre people will eat anything from rotten food to animal faeces. In order to achieve the highest citadel of enlightenment, the Aghori will perform horrendously crude rituals. The finality of their rituals is attained from eating the decaying flesh of a human.

        June 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
      • Commoner

        Corrupted ARMY? you better get your facts right rather than rant over some news, rumours or whatever you hear/read on the internet or so. BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO FREAKIN IDEA from your comment, i conclude. For the rest, yes the system ain't perfect and may be not all people are too but that doesn't in NO WAY account for most ! There are Honest, dedicated people working for there country who work hard everyday for a better country, a better economy a better system. And they should get credit to there work.
        So next time you say something, may be you'd like to think twice about it.

        February 18, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  5. ddpp

    I consider Pakistan doomsday scenario by Mr Ahmad and Mr Malik based on just political turmoil incomplete, unless they also include in their discussion a more sever destabilising factor......ISLAMIC MILITANCY in Pakistan.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Reply
    • No Nonsense American Christian

      New, More Dangerous Hindu Extremist Groups Emerge in India

      Christians concerned as rightwing factions splinter to form militant outfits.
      PUNE, India, October 29 (CDN) — After more than a decade of severe persecution, India’s Christian minority is growing increasingly concerned over the mushrooming of newer and deadlier Hindu extremist groups.

      Gone are the days when Christians had to watch out only for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and its youth wing, Bajrang Dal, which are closely linked with the most influential Hindu extremist umbrella organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). With voter support faltering for the RSS’s political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), moderate and extremist sections within the Hindu nationalist movement are blaming each other, and militant splinter groups have emerged.

      Claiming to be breakaway factions of the RSS, new groups with even more extreme ideology are surfacing. The Abhinav Bharat (Pride of India), the Rashtriya Jagran Manch (National Revival Forum), the Sri Ram Sene (Army of god Rama), the Hindu Dharam Sena (Army for Hindu Religion) and the Sanatan Sanstha (Eternal Organization) have launched numerous violent attacks on Christian and Muslim minorities.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Reply
      • l

        Christianity and islam are monotheistic cults arising out of paganism – cant survive the next revolution of internet phones – that spread information in the speed of light – beleivers will be questioned ,million times a day about their faith on these medival books that breed blind faith rather than science facts – oh god made book of kuran and world in 7 days ???? wow how scientific this claim is.... lol

        December 23, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • Hadden

      Stop killing Christians in India .....ya hindu fanatics. Clean the sewage infested ganges.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Reply
  6. Reprinted With Permission ©

    Besides emerging as a regional power, the time has come for Pakistan to take the leadership role in the Islamic World and lead them to the path of progress, prosperity and glory. The only nuclear nation in the Islamic World, Pakistan has shown the world that it can stand up to the nuances of world politics on principles and partake in global affairs. Also, that it can equally contribute to the progress of this planet called Earth. The sacrifices of the Pakistani nation in making this world safe is unmatched and deserves a seat at the table of the permanent members of The UN Security Council.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Reply
    • Jim

      @Reprinted Did you read the news article? If so, you have a very serious reading comprehension problem.

      June 27, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Reply
  7. Hsao Mein Wein

    Once upon a Mumbai dreary, while the Indian Army pondered weak and weary.....
    While they nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
    As of some one gently rapping, rapping at their bunker door.
    "'Tis some visiter," they muttered, "tapping at our bunker door —
    Only this and nothing more."

    What say you? Quoth the talibans… What say you?
    It ain’t no visiter….so to speak…’tis…the talibans…2 or 3 but Not More.
    We come in peace and nothing more…only in peace and nothing more...to tickle you to heart’s content.
    To sing you some bhajans and maybe more....so go back to sleep Evermore.
    Quoth the talibans, Evermore".
    And when you wake up we will be long gone…but we will be back____will be back
    This time in New Delhi….we will be back____
    Quoth the talibans…. we are coming back!!!!.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Reply
    • Robertson

      Good one. I Love it. SITPL !

      June 28, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Reply
  8. Harry Buck

    Without a doubt Pakistan needs to move away from American sphere of influence. Not many countries/friends/allies have benefited from American friendship. Certainly, not Pakistan. As Yogi Berra said, "When You Reach a Crossroad, Take It " !!! This is your opportunity to walk away from American grip. It will mean a lot of sacrifices short term but will be worth it in the long run. DO IT !!

    June 27, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  9. Sher Dil Shirazi

    Pakistan “RISING” has established itself as part of a very dynamic regional paradigm amalgamating it geographically with Central Asia, Middle East and Europe. While also situated at the gateway to the Arabian Gulf, Pakistan will also have access to the waters of the Caspian Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Arabian Sea, China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. This positions Pakistan at the crossroads to peace and prosperity in the world and economic well-being as well as military clout.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Reply
  10. Harry

    Why is this considered news?
    Is New York a city? Yes, it is common knowledge.
    Is Pakistan collapsing? Yes, it is common knowledge.

    June 27, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Reply
    • Sher Dil Shirazi

      It may be so but india has already collapsed. Sorry to pi$$ on your party

      June 27, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Reply
  11. Mahesh

    Pakistan is collapsing because it breeds like insects. Look at the birth rate. 4 births/woman. Women produce 4 births when there is space for only 1-child, how can there be progress?

    Pakistani Punjabi males need vasectomy, and women need IUDs so they can go out and be productive citizens.

    So Pukistan keeps breeding like cancer and we keep giving them 10s of billions looted from American middle class children.

    June 27, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Reply
  12. J. Foster Dulles

    What Pakistan needs is a Maoist Revolution pure and simple. It needs to quit cowtowing to NATO and do all of it's business with countries like Russia, China and Vietnam and work to improve life among the common people from within.

    June 27, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Reply
    • Rick LaPlace

      Yes, agreed. A Maoist revolution would take care of the overpopulation.

      June 28, 2012 at 1:33 am | Reply
    • Keith Dillinger

      "Experimental Democracy" has failed in India. An experiment that was being shoved down India's throat by western countries too eager to propagate their own values on a country that was trying to decolonize itself while trying to shed the communist skin of being a Soviet ally.

      June 28, 2012 at 5:24 am | Reply
  13. Jack

    Good evening everyone. You are all invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    June 28, 2012 at 12:07 am | Reply
  14. Keith Dillinger

    Quid pro quo transfer of nuclear technology by USA to third world countries such as India needs to be opposed on moral grounds. Billions of people live in that neighborhood and would be at risk from such catastrophes which I am sure the American people would not like to be a party to. We are all well aware that that region is prone to floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, and of course terrorism placing such nuclear installations at tremendous risks. US Congress is urged to reconsider and cancel all the agreements for the transfer of such technologies due “Force Majeure”.

    June 28, 2012 at 5:22 am | Reply
  15. Indian

    During times of despair, like too many problems like electricity shortage, terrorism, international isolation, etc., public has only
    one thing to do & that is NIGHT DUTY. And this is the reason of over population in this country. And the day is not far off, when this very problem will explode on the face of the world. Pakistan will not implode rather it will explode......!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 28, 2012 at 6:15 am | Reply
    • Tim

      Thank you for your energy to have put these tghnis together on this blog. Mary and that i very much treasured your input through your articles with certain tghnis. I understand that you have several demands on your schedule hence the fact that a person like you took all the time as you did to guide people just like us by means of this article is definitely highly loved.

      August 8, 2012 at 2:56 am | Reply
  16. Bibhuti bhusan dash

    US, china, middle east contries, muslim diaspora, allah cant save pakistan. It is pakistan to stand on it own legs.

    June 28, 2012 at 7:10 am | Reply
  17. Scales9

    Most of the articles published in Western media is all about negative image of Pakistan. You have to portray some one as villain just in a Hollywood movie.Pakistanis are very resilient and they will survive.

    June 28, 2012 at 7:28 am | Reply
  18. saeedTheTowelHead

    Hahahahahahahahahahaha. No really. Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha

    June 28, 2012 at 9:21 am | Reply
  19. Hafiz Mohammed Saeed

    Paqistan is an ally of Al Qaeda. Terrorists who control Pakistan have essentially poured gasoline all over themselves and their country. Now the whole world is witnessing this monster ablaze. Many of them will die needlessly for their masters even though we no longer live in the middle ages.

    June 28, 2012 at 9:27 am | Reply
  20. Anjaan

    When any Pakistani or any western Pak sympathizer writes an article on the problems facing Pakistan, you have to be able to read between the lines. The underlying message is, " Pakistan's problems are basically the baby of the rest of the world, and they should, by all means, keep Pakistan from collapsing".
    It is pleading, warning, blackmail, all put together in the same package ... !

    June 28, 2012 at 9:40 am | Reply
  21. Jared

    Pakistan has earned the respect of the world.

    June 28, 2012 at 10:59 am | Reply
    • Ian

      Maybe from visiting aliens from outer space.

      June 28, 2012 at 11:07 am | Reply
    • Mazal Rosenbloom

      Pakistan has certainly earned my respect. I am propagating in Israeli Knesset to initiate diplomatic relations with Pakistan.

      June 28, 2012 at 11:30 am | Reply
  22. Larry Rubin

    Folks it is all over in India. Experimental democracy has failed. Economic growth has been shattered. Indian finance minister has resigned. Companies are pulling out. Poverty is rampant. Currency has tanked. Food shortages are causing riots. People are looking in the garbage for food. Kashmir is on fire as shrines are being burnt down to divert attention from the crisis.

    June 28, 2012 at 11:28 am | Reply
    • Anjaan

      The Jaws should know that India is not a racing horse, like China it a thousands years old civilization that is on a revival path.

      June 28, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Reply
      • Deluth Parker

        Please don't insult our intelligence by comparing China to India....It is like comparing a race horse to a donkey.

        June 28, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  23. krm1007 ©™

    It appears to me that the authors of this article were bribed (research/teaching assistantships, tuition refunds, admission to PhD program et al ) to pen this inaccurate article that is full of inconsistencies and completely out of context. My thesis is just the opposite. Pakistan will soon be thriving. I have published my comments and thoughts and premises in several forums on this subject and many others. Let us not forget Pakistan lives in a bad neighborhood to begin with. It has weathered the worst in its 60 year history which is behind it and the good is on the way. Let me quote from Shakespeare to reflect these sentiments in a poetic way to impart some sanity to the comments being made in this forum. Cheers !

    There is a tide in the affairs of men.
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are we now afloat,
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose our ventures.

    June 28, 2012 at 11:54 am | Reply
    • Samuel Brinckerhoff PhD

      Your posting is music to my ears. In fact, I will use Eero Saarinen's line that your posting is like "Frozen Music" to me. I agree with you wholly. Pakistan is on the rise and will soon be a power house to be reckoned with. Let not the propaganda in the media and disinformation mislead you. It takes a strong country to take a stand against the world powers on matters of principles such as Pakistan has done. With your permission, let me reprint excerpts from one of your original postings related to this matter. I hope the authors will learn something from it.

      Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224

      All hands on deck, Pakistan.
      The world is lovely, bright and deep,
      But we have promises to keep,
      And miles to go before we sleep
      And miles to go before we sleep.

      June 28, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Reply
    • Peace

      LOL ... who are the bad neighbors?

      July 2, 2012 at 4:18 am | Reply
  24. No Nonsense American

    To krm1007 and Samuel Brinckerhoff PhD...

    Gentlemen, the quality of your posting needs to be commended. Seldom do we see sanity prevailing in such forums. Please keep us enlightened with your thoughts and ideas. i agree with you re: Pakistan. The best is yet to come...and it has begun right now. Good luck to Pakistan. And we thank them for supporting the Americans all these years.

    June 28, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Reply
  25. Pakistan and Pakistan

    Pakistan’s WMD Assets keep the neighbors and the world awake by its mere military symbolism both defensive and offensive. Therein lies its beauty as a deterrent.

    June 28, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Reply
    • Gina

      Unlike others, Pakistan is not threatening the rest of the world.
      Hence, it is acceptable for them to have nuclear devices.
      Nonetheless, as things do not look good politically, the world is paying serious attention.

      July 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Reply
  26. Deja Misemer

    During a vasectomy, the vas deferens from each testicle is clamped, cut, or otherwise sealed. This prevents sperm from mixing with the semen that is ejaculated from the penis. An egg cannot be fertilized when there are no sperm in the semen. The testicles continue to produce sperm, but the sperm are reabsorbed by the body. `"*..

    Have a good day <http://picturesofherpes.co/index.php

    July 8, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Reply

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