The myth of an Arab Spring in Pakistan
January 30th, 2013
10:32 AM ET

The myth of an Arab Spring in Pakistan

By Michael Kugelman, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Michael Kugelman is the senior program associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. You can follow him @MichaelKugelman. The views expressed are his own.

Will Pakistan experience an Arab Spring? The question has been on many minds since revolution swept across the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 – and especially since a major anti-government rally took place in Islamabad this month.

It's easy to understand why. Pakistan, like the Arab Spring nations, boasts a young and mobile communications savvy population. Its masses are victims of the same indignities that incited revolt in the Middle East: corruption, oppression, and injustice.

However, the similarities end there. Let’s stop talking about a revolution in Pakistan, because it’s not going to happen.

It’s tempting to think Pakistan harbors revolutionary impulses. In recent weeks, a cleric named Tahir ul Qadri led a march to Pakistan’s capital that he vowed would culminate in the fall of the government. Tens of thousands – including women and children – camped out in Islamabad to cheer Qadri’s fiery anti-government speeches.

Yet this story yielded a decidedly counter-revolutionary denouement. Qadri stepped off the stage and entered into negotiations with government officials. The outcome? An “Islamabad Long March Declaration” calling for the government to be dissolved by mid-March, and for a caretaker government to take over until elections are held within 90 days of the government’s dissolution. This is actually the direction the government was moving in before the march – part of a constitutionally mandated transition process for election years, and 2013 is one such year.

More from GPS: Yes, it could get worse

In effect, the chief revolutionary signed a backroom deal with the state that left everything in place – and his supporters literally out in the cold. Not exactly a scene from Tahrir Square.

In Pakistan, power is about personalities, not people. Pakistanis frequently gravitate toward charismatic politicians who, messiah-like, vow to single-handedly rid the nation of its afflictions. Yet these leaders often come across as mere pawns of Pakistan’s established power brokers.

Take Qadri. He is known for his galvanizing anti-government rhetoric, but he also supported Pakistan’s military coup in 1999, and expresses pro-army views. Tellingly, the Long March Declaration stipulates that his political party help select a caretaker prime minister. This has all fueled speculation that his march was engineered by Pakistan’s powerful armed forces to deepen their behind-the-scenes influence over politics.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan, a former cricket star contesting this year’s elections, often resorts to crowd-pleasing populist rhetoric, such as vowing to end corruption in 90 days. Yet he has struggled to shake the perception that his campaign has been sponsored, if not bankrolled, by Pakistan’s security establishment.

Be this as it may, there’s no denying the extraordinary ability of these charismatic figures to mobilize the masses. Khan has drawn huge crowds – some estimate as many as 500,000 people – to his campaign rallies. Qadri attracted tens of thousands to his march even though he’s lived in Canada for the last seven years.

So imagine for a moment that a truly independent charismatic leader materializes, one with no strings to be pulled, and who genuinely desires to precipitate a people's revolution. Could such a figure’s prodigious mobilizing abilities launch a mass movement for change?

Don’t count on it.

Why? Because mobilization is only a first step toward launching a revolution. The other steps – identifying core objectives and strategies, and them implementing them through mass action – are non-starters in Pakistan because the nation is too riven by division. Ethnic, provincial, and sectarian tensions are rife, effectively negating any hopes for unifying around a common cause, much less a leader (Khan is a deeply polarizing figure). Sunni-Shia cleavages run deep, and fractures between Sunni Barelvis and Sunni Deobandis are sharp. These religion-based fissures should put to rest any talk of an eventual Iran-style Islamic revolution.

It’s not just Pakistan’s fractures that inhibit mass movements for change. Thanks to the power of patronage, many everyday Pakistanis are allergic to actions that threaten the status quo because this could imperil the influence of friends and other patrons who help them get by in Pakistan’s unmeritocratic society.

Some may argue that Pakistan doesn’t need an Arab Spring because it has already experienced something approximating one – a pro-democracy movement in 2007. Lawyers, journalists, and students launched a campaign against the draconian policies of President Pervez Musharraf, which led to his resignation the next year and to an era of democracy that has shakily endured to the present day.

Still, while that movement may have produced democracy, it has failed to overhaul the oppressive culture of corruption and impunity that continues to enrage the Pakistani masses today. Sadly, this culture is unlikely to be eliminated anytime soon.

As the Qadri march wrapped up, local media reported that poor hygiene conditions had sent more than 90 sickened participants to the hospital. Social media reports (albeit unconfirmed ones) claimed that several people had died.

What a tragic yet appropriate coda in a nation where people’s privations, not people power, carry the day.

Post by:
Topics: Pakistan

soundoff (155 Responses)
  1. Joseph McCarthy

    What Pakistan needs is a Communist Revolution like I said before. It appears that Democracy there has proved to be unworkable as most elected officials were either corrupt or incompetent and all were blindly obedient to the whims of Washington D.C. They need to make some kind of peace with the local Taliban and try to find a way to end the grinding poverty plaguing that country!

    January 30, 2013 at 10:50 am | Reply
    • wjmccartan

      Thank you, Joseph. How true that rings!

      January 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Reply
      • krm10070 © ™

        pak is the world's cesspit
        even arabs throw them nothing but spit
        US drone is pak's national bird
        pak is a failure that is now called the planet's turd..

        February 1, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
      • krm10070 © ™

        Pakistan, my country is a two face serpent. A source of financing and inspiration for all terrorists in the world the likes of which have attack thousand of innocents everyday across the world. A place where these extremists seek refuge after attacking
        neighboring countries. Pakistan is a Smithsonian specimen. Like humpty dumpty even USA, NATO and the entire free world are having a tough time holding it together. Living in the shadows of China, defined by India, haunted by Bangladesh and Balochistan and punctuated by zillion Terror Organizations,
        Pakistan is struggling to find a meaning for its existence and a place in the new world order. How can it stand up? Certainly not on its feet .....perhaps on its knees to seek
        redemption for double crossing USA in Afghanistan, for looting trillions in the name of war on terror, for hiding OBL.
        My name is ShahNawaz and I am ashamed to be a Pakistani. I want to convert to Christianity as soon as possible and leave this doomed land.

        February 1, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
      • ShankarH (NaaPakiAssTan)

        I am not one to mince words. The common denominator to all the bad things happening in the region is my own country PAKISTAN! Yes, folks...PAKISTAN ! Look at all the countries surrounding that are reeling in TERROR because of this country when it itself is reeling under extremism and poverty and intolerance...... Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan, Nepal, and now Myanmar. The mother of all trouble makers ... yes folks, hold on to your chairs !!! is PAKISTAN !!! IT IS NOT COINCIDENCE !! IT IS BY DESIGN and ITS CULT RELIGION BELEIVER CITIZENS !!! Pakistan cannot stop meddling in the affairs of these fledgling nations...financing terrorists...inciting communal violence, fanning religious intolerance. This already has started backfiring at this filthy nation so let this country explode by itself. It is already an inferno that will be uncontrollable. The conditions are ripe for this to happen as Pakistanis all about terrorism that is threatening its survival in its current geo-political form.
        Split Pakistan into three parts, give Balochistan to the Baloch’s the tribal and ungoverned part to Afghanistan and give other half to India. This will make it governable and manageable and this will generate tremendous economic demand for western nations, be democratically more efficient and easy to manage,

        February 1, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
      • ShankarH (NaaPakiAssTan)

        My own country Pakistan has become a cancer for this world. A source of financing and inspiration for all terrorists in the region the likes of which attack thousand of innocents across the world everyday. A place where these extremists seek refuge after attacking neighboring countries and NATO forces and American troops. Pakistan is a Smithsonian specimen. Like humpty dumpty even USA, NATO and the entire free world are having a tough time holding it together. Living in the shadows of India, defined by China, and punctuated by Terror Organizations such as Al Qaeda, Lashkar E Taibba, Jesh E Muhammad, Jamaad Ud Dawa find a meaning for its existence and a place in the new world order.
        How can it stand up? Certainly not on its feet .....perhaps on its knees to seek
        redemption for double crossing USA in Afghanistan and Iraq.For be fooling entire world in the name of war on terror and OBL, hiding it and making sure to loot trillions from US taxpayers money.

        Split Pakistan, give the tribal and ungoverned part to Iran and give rest to India. This will make it governable and manageable and this will generate tremendous economic demand for western nations, be democratically more efficient and easy to manage,

        February 1, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
      • The Colosseum is full

        I can fix your country..@ShahNawaz.. The Lord Jesus spoke to me about your country in Dec. 2008 ... He just said one word to me... Punjab... I looked it up and found it to be in Pakistan and small part of India..It's about five rivers I believe.. I been praying about the Punjab.. so far I have heard nothing else but I still consider your nation especially the Punjab..
        In my prayers I am making preparations to making your nation a Christian nation.. Peacefully.. 🙂 We shall see what happens . 🙂 🙂 🙂

        February 4, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Khan

      Joseph, this is already being advocated by Imran Khan. Make some peace deal with militants and work for the prosperity through education and reforms. I find this article rather disturbing and biased, because Mr. Zakaria also took the popular yet misleading opinion of Mr. Khan being used by the military establishment. This is not true, in my humble opinion. He has ground support, and very strong too. He is polarizing but then, who is not polarized in Pakistan? He is someone who is somewhat in the middle; bullied by radicals, constantly being called the agent of the west, as well as by the liberals who call him Talib Khan.
      Qadri's march was a hoax, and Imran did the right thing by not legitimizing it by his participation. Over the years, he has learned the hard way; i.e., knock the doors of people and ask for votes, rather than believing in revolutionary dramas.
      Finally, what has middle east achieved through revolution, is already present in Pakistan. Hence, there is no need for revolution, but evolutionary process of ballot box.

      January 30, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Reply
      • sunny

        Great Response loved it. Zakaria is a biased journalist he is nothing to me he is the most biased, one sided and ignorant journalist.

        January 31, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Mohammed

      Communism bans religion. Pakistanis are a mass of Islamists, who like to cling to their religion and their suicide vests. Revolution is possible only through mass participation. How is a communist revolution even conceptually possible in Pakistan?

      January 30, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Reply
    • sunny

      Joseph I am a Pakistani and I actually agree with you. Why not a communist goverment? We are very stubborn people yet emotional pakistani's need someone who can rule them with the iron fist yet care for their needs and wants. At least that way you can point the finger at one guy "the bad guy" instead of doing whats happening there rite now, people have no clear direction and are lost completely the only man leading them or is the last hope is Imran Khan(ex cricketer). Lets hope we can see the change because this is not the pakistan I grew up in during the 90s. Long Live Pakistan and Imran Khan.

      January 31, 2013 at 10:02 am | Reply
      • Bill

        If you are betting your hopes on Khan, then you will be very disappointed.

        January 31, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
      • Truth Hurts

        Totally agree with you Bill. Imran Khan belongs to the tribal regions (Taliban birth place) of Pakistan, that's why he is very sympathetic to Taliban. His victory will be Taliban's victory, and start of a much stressful era in the region.

        February 3, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • rothy Jones

      Since whwn do Pakis speak Arabic, you ignorant jerk?

      January 31, 2013 at 11:22 am | Reply
    • CArl

      The "Arab spring" is a myth everywhere. All this has accomplished is to replace largely secular despotic dictators with Islamic despots seeking to enforce sharia, resulting in a great leap backwards towards the seventh century.

      January 31, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Reply
      • JeffLawrence

        Well said, CArl.

        February 3, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • Yakobi

      The world needs an anti-communism revolution. Only then will the people truly be free. Communism is a dead end stupid experiment that will not survive into the next century.

      January 31, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Reply
    • JGSH

      Pakistanis are like Mexicans. We hate political corruption, not because we have a true phylosophical aversion to it, but because it doesn't directly benefit us.

      January 31, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Reply
    • Hanif

      what Pakistan needs is an anti-islamic revolution. Islam is the cause of all the bad that exists in Pakistan.

      January 31, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Reply
      • ANoori

        what pakistan needs is an end to the unparallel power its miliatary has. I believe that is the cause of it problems. they need to make peace with india and resolve the Kashmir issues because the military in pakistan is using kashmir issue to galvanize support for its power. Corruption is a big issue and that needs to be checked. religion is not the issue here.

        February 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
      • Vicky

        I attend to agree more with Mr. Noori. There are other predominantly muslim countries like Turkey and Indonasia which are evolving into modern democracies. There is no reason why this cannot happen in Paki if the power of the military and most importantly the ISI is taken out of the picture through maneuvers like resolving the Kashmir or the Taliban issues – hypothetical, but not happening anytime soon.

        February 1, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
      • JeffLawrence

        Mostly true, Hanif.

        February 3, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • Vicky

      O.K how can any kind of revolution be possible if the reasons mentioned in the article above are true. What kind of communism would appeal a muslim radical or even a regular muslim who will always put his faith before everything else – even his own life.

      I am from India and I felt this article could very well be about my country, which is divided on a million different lines. Although there are a lot of differences between India and Pakistan – most of them on the positive side – in pure terms of a 'arab spring' like revolution – Not happening.

      Finally, I am no fan of Fareed, but people please read the name of the author before you blast Mr. Zakaria for someone else's writings.

      February 1, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Reply
    • krm1007 © ™

      Pak Sar Kate Char Baar,
      Kishwar-E-Gutter baar baar,
      Pak manhole ka Nizam,
      Quwat e ukhuwat e Taliban
      Saaya-E-Shaitan-E-Zuljalal

      LOL------------

      February 1, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Reply
      • abc

        you have plenty of free time!!
        do some work and be useful

        February 4, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • bayouBalaji (NaaPakiAssTan)

      The world now need to focus on my country Pakistan. The American invasion of Afghanistan brought to the forefront  of the irrelevance of Pakistan as a nation. 
      Their soldiers  continue hiding in the trenches scared from Talibans. A few teenage Talibans from within the country  occupied entire SWAT and areas near Islamabad for months on end showing how useless Pakistan is and how coward its army and its peoples are. It was embarrasing for the world to observe this humiliation of a nation that was being touted as sewer and gutter of Asia.
      I continue to read with interest the thesis presented on CNN that "less is more" in a political context as applied to Pakistan.
        Empowering subjugated minorities in Pakistan by splitting it into smaller states would trigger uber economic demand for western nations who have given so much financial andtechnology aid to Pakistan with no return to show for the investment and only backstabbing and covert terrorist operations by Pakistan against them. Balochistan is an excellent idea to achieve this.
       I concur with this approach and with an economic background find the premise to be on solid footing. Central Asian States (CAS) are a case in point on this successful approach.
      My name is ShahNawaz and I am ashamed to be a Pakistani. I want to convert to Christianity as soon as possible and leave this doomed land.

      February 1, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Reply
    • ssialkoti (NaaPakiAssTan)

      Let me show the mirror to my Pakistani carpetbeggar brothers so they can understand how others perceive them. First off, let us not insult religions by putting Islam in that category.
      Islam is nothing but a cult invented by the pedophile named Muhammed.
      .The religion was based on pedophile practices of Arab slaves that the Muslim invaders travelled with in ancient times.
      Second, and that brings us to who Muslims really are..... an offshoot of illegitimate children born out of these Arab slaves. The dark skin and body odor of Pakistanis today are indicative of the DNA of these slaves. Nothing personal...it is all science.
      Recall, how the Pakistan was conquered 4 times by Indians. The mindset of Pakistani are so much set in hatred they they cant pull themselves of their poverty quagmire and inferiority complex that they developed over time.
      The problem is these Pakistanis are dragging themselves and the neighbors down socio economically while simultaneously nurturing terrorism inside their own country. We must change this equation. The way to do it is to break Pakistan into pieces so that we are able to change the mindset that is so mired in slavery.

      February 1, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Reply
      • maddie

        This is hands-down the most racist thing I've ever read. It blows my mind that someone in this day and age can spew this sort of vitriol and still live with themselves.

        February 4, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • mjtrigga

      what we need is a a nuclear bomb big enough to destroy that whole country

      February 1, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Reply
    • JeffLawrence

      And we all know the "wonderful" results of the Russian revolution, Mr. Joseph Stalin. Try using a little grey matter from between your ears, instead of letting it decay.

      February 3, 2013 at 2:13 am | Reply
    • GrowUp

      I think that Pakistan, since its creation, has existed only by and for the purpose of fighting against India. It needs to redefine itself and find a real meaning and purpose for its existence.

      February 3, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Reply
    • JeffLawrence

      And we all know the "wonderful" results of the Russian revolution, Mr. Joseph Stalin. Pakistan has never had a real democracy. Voting in a dictator does not make a democracy. After the Russian Revolution the Soviet Union traded one dictatorship for another. The Soviets starved and murdered tens of millions of their own people. Joseph, are you proposing that this would be good for Pakistan?

      February 3, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Reply
    • The Colosseum is full

      Pakistan only needs the gospel of Jesus Christ to penetrate it's heart with the love of God in real form..
      this easily obtained with prayer.. but one person alone cannot make much headway for now..

      February 4, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Reply
    • Anon

      Hilarious

      February 6, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Reply
    • Pakistanisfinished

      Let me just say that Pakistan wil never have any kind of spring because the people of Pakistan have been brian washed by our leaders and our army to keep ful control of the people and to jostle power to loot the Pakistan treasury and deposit their money oversea in european banks.

      We Pakistanis have become slaves of misinformation and propaganda from our schools and leaders who teach us to hate Jews, Christians, Hindu, Israel, India and the west. It was not until I came to USA that I realized what a disaster Pakistan is and it has little hope for change. Is it any wonder there is so much violence against minorities and women in Pakistan ? No its not.
      There really is no way Pakistan can be saved from our own monsters and public killers.
      It too late.

      February 8, 2013 at 5:00 pm | Reply
  2. bocknobby

    Arab Spring in Pakistan? You are absolutely correct. Pakistan is the last place this is going to happen. Why the US continues to support this corrupt, intolerant, bullying nation defies explanation. Well, then there is US policy towards Israel . . .

    Sending financial - and other aid - to Pakistan is like throwing gasoline on a blazing fire that is out of US control and has been for a couple of decades.

    January 30, 2013 at 10:53 am | Reply
  3. takhalus

    Pakistan has experienced an event similar if you look at the 2007 lawyers movement. What has happened is a major change in the psyche where all the major opposition partys united on holding elections when in the past they would often side with the military establishment against a democratic government.

    January 30, 2013 at 11:12 am | Reply
  4. Towel Heads

    The real myth is Islam.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Reply
    • JeffLawrence

      They aren't actually towels, they are sheets. That makes them sheet heads 😉

      February 3, 2013 at 2:14 am | Reply
  5. JAL

    Many Arab countries are probably waiting to see if the Arab Spring creates a new way of life through attracting economic development coupled to celebration. That is the promise of the Arab Spring.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Reply
    • Al

      What benefits have there been for Arabs? What is really happening in Egypt? Does anyone care about the NON radical person in the mid east?

      January 31, 2013 at 10:17 pm | Reply
      • haris jihadi

        what do u mean by radical? or does that refer to a muslim that prays 5 times and day and also fasts. and if your talking about people who do jihad then you dont know much about the religion. everyone is required to do jihad when there is a time and need for it. and the physical jihad is only the small part of. The main aspect of jihad is to better yourself first and then fix the situations around you. And to anyone who reads this please pick up a book and read.

        February 1, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  6. Ali

    Michael Kugelman is right in some respects, but he seems to only dwell on the negative inhibitors to revolutionary uprisings in Pakistan. There are also positive ones - relative to the Arab countries being compared in particular. Unlike them, Pakistan - despite several military dictatorships - has actually never been a police state of the Egypt/Tunisia/Libya/Syria variety. Which means that unlike in those countries, there have historically been plenty of ways for its inhabitants to 'let off steam' before the oppression built to explosive levels. This was true even under the worst of the lot, General Zia ul Haq. It became more so during Musharraf's time, when an increasingly free media, civil society and judicial activism, and political maneuvering all played a role in tempering the ability of the state to run roughshod over democratic liberties - even if only the liberty to publicly question and criticize all that is wrong in the country. The lawyer's movement that precipitated Musharraf's downfall was one of many symbols of that space within the system, but I think it's erroneous to think of it as 'approximating' an Arab Spring-like upheaval. Most Pakistanis do want to be rid of stifling corruption and infrastructure problems - and the extremist threat - but quite rightly there is a widespread sense too that there are no shortcuts. If Pakistan can achieve its *first ever* peaceful transition of power from one elected government to another this year, it will have taken a huge step towards building a state and democratic culture where leaders are not only elected, but also subsequently held accountable, at the ballot box.

    January 30, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Reply
  7. Zohaib

    Michael Kugelman is not right @ Ali. He is wrong in the regard that Imran Khan is 'of the security establishment', and wrong in the regard that Imran Khan is 'not the messiah of Pakistan'. Imran Khan is our Messiah, Michael Kugelman. Here my word loud and clear. Pakistan Zindabad. Imran Khan Zindabad.

    January 30, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Reply
  8. George Patton

    Will Pakistan experience an Arab Spring? No. Never. Nunca.

    January 30, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Reply
    • the REAL George S. Patton

      This poster is an imposter. He's a left-wing miscreant posing as me.

      January 31, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Reply
    • George Patton-2

      Except for Tunisia and Egypt, the s-called "Arab Spring" seems to headed for total failure in the Middle and Central Asia. Now this appears to be the case in Egypt, too. As for Pakistan, they need to replace their current leaders since these people are on the payroll of Washington D.C. but that won't happen any time soon!

      January 31, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Reply
  9. Abdul w Qureshi

    I think without economic freedom , democracy will not solve the pakistan problem . Pakistan cannot solve its economic problem without the help foreign economic help . The foreign exchange pakistan gets from pakistani working outside the country should be utilized the solving the the energy crisis not on luxury item like cars

    January 30, 2013 at 7:42 pm | Reply
    • Raj

      True. Pakistan needs wealth, but not wealth that is concentrated in a few industrialists and corrupt politicians.

      Urban Pakistanis will eventually manage to raise their standards, possibly even to first world levels, because they are a lot more literate and savvy than the rural folks. Its rural Pakistan (and there's a lot of it) that one must worry about.

      January 31, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Reply
  10. krm1007 ©™

    IF PAKISTANIS ARE NOT VERY CAREFUL, THEY MIGHT SEE NUCLEAR WINTER, FROM THEIR OWN N WARHEADS.

    January 30, 2013 at 9:08 pm | Reply
  11. Shujaat Ayub khan

    Just wait for U.S exit from Afghanistan and watch how fast U.S aid to Pakistan evaporates. Situation will get worse than what is now. Incompetent military, useless police, corrupt politicians and people who believe in conspiracy theories. There is never going to be any kind of spring in Pakistan.

    January 31, 2013 at 1:12 am | Reply
    • ANoori

      i couldn't agree more, the pakistani military and government on one hand approves the drones strikes on its own citizens and on the other hand critizes it publicly. they are inlvolved int he drones strikes and they are getting aid from US to not say anything about drone strikes. this is just one aspect of the corrupt regime in pakistan.

      February 1, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Reply
    • haris jihadi

      The U.S. aid is intended for the drones strikes that they commit and primarily kill INNOCENT PEOPLE.

      February 1, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Reply
      • JeffLawrence

        When a drone kills an innocent, it is not the intended target. Your jihadis kill innocents by the hundreds INTENTIONALLY. You Neanderthals love to kill anyone and everyone who doesn't follow your narrow-minded hate.

        February 3, 2013 at 2:20 am |
  12. Candid1

    While MK is on point on several issues, I would disagree with him that President Pervez Musharraf's policies were draconian. For example, it was Musharraf who liberated the electronic media which had previously been dominated by the state run television. He also, reduced the voting age to 18, required that legislators be educated at least up to university level, abolished restricted voting options for minorities, increased the proportion of reserved seats for women in national and provincial legislatures, introduced a local government system bringing devolution and democracy to people's door step, opposed Islamists directly and openly, and implemeted economic policies that allowed development and progress that Pakistan hadn't seen since the 1950s. Thus, I would diagree that his policies can be generally classified as draconian. The unfortunate part is that many of the steps he had implemented to directly empower the citizens, were undone by the "democratic" government that followed his departue.

    January 31, 2013 at 7:34 am | Reply
  13. j. von hettlingen

    Indeed the tensions between the Deobandis and Barelvis among Sunnis in Pakistan are alarming. The Taliban mostly belong to the Deobandi school of Islam which emphasises the ritual and temporal aspects of religion and opposes worship at shrines. Such worship is an important part of the faith of the majority Barelvis, who are considered moderate and promote a cult following of the Prophet Muhammad. They are also in the forefront of a campaign against reforms to the blasphemy law.
    Two years ago a Muslim prayer leader and his son were sentenced to life in jail for blasphemy. The two were found guilty in Punjab province of tearing down a poster of a gathering to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad

    January 31, 2013 at 8:08 am | Reply
  14. RedRant

    I think the biggest fallacy being perpetuated here is that Pakistan is somehow a democracy when in actuality it is an Islamic republic where not everyone has the same right if you are not Muslim.

    January 31, 2013 at 9:09 am | Reply
    • ANoori

      yes, blame it on the religion, you Islamophobe. the pakistani government official are so corrupt that they will sell you their mother. so to blaming their short coming on islam is wronge and frankly uncalled for.

      February 1, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Reply
    • ANoori

      The United Arab Emirate, Turkey, Indonesia, Morrocco are also muslim majority nations. how come they don't have corruption are at least very minimal. So don't blame the religion.

      February 1, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Reply
      • JeffLawrence

        They are all repressive and corrupt. The difference is the countries you named are more tenable because they are not so anti-Western. Turkey is less repressive than the others because it is a secular government, not run by islamic rule.

        February 3, 2013 at 2:26 am |
  15. Hao So

    Let's start with the fact that Pakistanis are not Arab, they are Asian.
    And if there is any Spring they aspire to, it is the African Spring. The Arab Spring has been a bust.

    January 31, 2013 at 9:35 am | Reply
    • CHrista

      Pakistanis are not Asians as Asian is a geography. they are caucasians, which is an ethnicity.
      try to get that straight first – geography is different from ethnicity.

      January 31, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Reply
      • Yakobi

        Pakistanis are Indians. Remember, Pakistan was carved out of India when the British abandoned the country in 1947.

        January 31, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
      • Bill

        First of all, a Caucasian race is really just a myth or a label. There is really no scientific basis for a Caucasian. Secondly, Pakistani's are indeed Asian, because they live in Asia, so that would be correct.

        January 31, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
      • ANoori

        wow, you truely are an idi*t. what continent is pakistan in? the correct answer is Asia and that will make the pakis Asians. South Asians to be precise. Get a clue!

        February 1, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
      • Hao So

        Pakistani people do not self-identify as Arab, you are completely wrong.

        February 2, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  16. Venkat Sargoor

    Pakistanis are south asians, not arabs. They are made out of different material. They will drop the ball if things do not resolve in a few days, like how the young people stopped supporting poor Anna Hazare in India.

    Lack of freedom in south asian countries is not the same as lack of freedom in Africa or Middle east, to majority of the people what they have is still worth more than what they do not have.That situation will not bring enough desparation in enough people to bring about a revolution.

    There is also this Indian principal of being happy with what you have and leave up to the lord the rest. Although Pakistanis and Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans would love to say they are not Indians, they are culturally and mentally joined to India and show similar tendencies. This principal of belief in fate and acceptance of what you have, will never let them raise as one any time soon.

    January 31, 2013 at 9:46 am | Reply
    • java

      I love what Venkat said as I have always felt the same. Revolution is not in the SouthAsian DNA. Pakistanis and Indians are all the same, no matter what. It is not in them to bring about change. I am even surprised that they got independence from the British. British probably figured it would be alot profitable to have their puppets rule these commonwealth states and left on their own.

      January 31, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Reply
      • Hawthorne

        Sorry but Indians smell like sh-it

        January 31, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • Tara

      Check scientific papers from the human genome project and you will find that most Pakistanis are definitely not Indians. North of Pakistan is Persian with a culture and a language that is distinctly different from Indians. So Indians should stop deluding themselves that Pakistanis and Indians are the same people.

      February 1, 2013 at 12:36 am | Reply
      • Angela Schneider

        History 101, no it was the Indian sub-continent that was later divided. There was no Pakistan before 1947, it was India.
        Many americans describe it like that "India is a big pile of Cr@p and Pakistan a smaller one".

        February 1, 2013 at 5:24 am |
      • Venkat Sargoor

        I did not mean Pakistanis are genetically Indians. Indians are not genetically Indians, by that I mean every 100 miles everything changes in India. There is nothing called genetically Indian, political boundaries do not isolate gene pools especially huge ones with lots of freedom to intermix. I am sure in India you will have genes traced to Samarkhand (central asia), Europe, China, Africa and many other places. There has been constant influx into India from these places and that is the truth about India.

        That explains why "North Pakistanis" might be closer to Persians(also they are neighbors), I am sure there is lot of Greek and Central Asian lineage too in Pakistan. That does not rule out cultural and psychological influence from India, many modern day Indians who migrated from these places too have same blood.

        February 1, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
      • Hawkeye

        So Indians are genetically Indians. So you are saying Pakistani are not pakistanis they are either Persians or Afganis? What about the Punjabis and Mohajirs?

        February 2, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
      • Abdallah Bin Faruqi

        I am 100%.
        My people Arabs, came to the doorstep of the kingdom of "Wa Hind" 900 years ago in Afghanistan and today's so called Pakistan and invaded them, killing their men and raping their women very easily because they were non-violent idol worshipers, buddist and hindu people. There is no Pakistani because every single Pakistan, his great, great great great grandmother was a hindu who converted to Islam the greatest deen. Scientifically, and otherwise Pakistani is only another name for the same people as India. I challenge any Scientist to produce proof otherwise and prove me wrong on paper, not empty words.

        April 29, 2013 at 7:14 am |
  17. Venkat Sargoor

    Also another Indian or South Asian principal of Respect your elders no matter what, brings about feudal tendencies in people and they will always look for a raja or nawab to follow. It is just how it is. The new generation has lost a bit of that tendency, but it will take generations and generations to get the feudal mindset out of their head.

    Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh yadav, Faroukh Abdullah, B J Patnaik, Imran Khan, Ms Bhutto all these individuals are product of this mentality. I am not saying they are necessarily bad people, however the criteria that makes them the leader is a feudal one.

    So multiple Idols can divide the masses and keep the size of each individual group slightly less than the critical mass that can bring about change.

    January 31, 2013 at 9:52 am | Reply
    • Jahan

      Well said...

      February 1, 2013 at 1:24 am | Reply
    • JAY

      Well said Venkat. your observations are the sharpest one that I have read on the comment's page...

      February 1, 2013 at 10:15 am | Reply
  18. Fred Phred

    Of course Pakistan has no hope of an "Arab Spring". The extremists would never accept anything except full control of all aspects of the country. That's the problem with cutting deals with extremists and that's why they're called extremists!

    If the taliban (those that formed the taliban) could accept a moderate form of government, then you've have a chance. But there is no hope of that. They are pretty much out of any hope.

    January 31, 2013 at 10:03 am | Reply
    • Hawthorne

      Another Indian hobo. Wonder if his wife got r-aped today in India

      January 31, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Reply
  19. NorCalMojo

    It takes a special kind of stupid to go on praising the Arab Spring after what we've seen in Egypt and Syria.

    So far, the only change it's brought is instability and death.

    January 31, 2013 at 11:37 am | Reply
  20. Bacon Quereshi

    As much mammoth effort and billions of US tax dollars we continue to donate to Pakistan each year, it seems all of it goes to waste.
    Pakistan is like a wild goat in heat.
    The civilized world keep bringing Pakistan to the fresh water pond, but Pakistan continues to bite our hand, turns around and jumps into the nearest raw sewage septic tank and then complains its drowning because it can't swim.
    Pakistan is a lost cause.
    We must divert these funds to our crumbling schools and bridges here at home.
    Pakistan causes me great shame.

    January 31, 2013 at 11:47 am | Reply
    • Tbone Thakur

      Try having bull's b-alls curry for a change. You may change your mind

      January 31, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Reply
      • Ashiq

        TT, they don't have b@lls to get to bulls b@lls, they will worship bulls b@lls.

        February 1, 2013 at 5:53 am |
    • Beef_Thakkur

      USA should buy cow's dung and urine from India instead of giving billions of dollars to Pakistan.

      February 1, 2013 at 5:33 am | Reply
    • Babar

      To Qureshi,

      first of all you changed your first name to Bacon. Second of all , We never begged US to aid Pakistan. Actually, we are better off without US aid. US is the one supproting Pakistani Taliban (TTP). PRoviding all the funding and arms to them to destabilize Pakistan. We are proud Pakistani's we don't need any one 's help. All the US aid goes to corrupt politicians and Military any way. US also playing a double game, one side ask Pakistan to fight against Taliban and on the other hand supports the Pakistani Taliban. By the way who was Raymond Davis (CIA) agent working and supproting Taliban and allies against Pakistan.

      February 1, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Reply
  21. Yakobi

    What they need is to stop sponsoring terrorism inside their own country and their neighbors. Maybe then they can join the rest of the non-muslim world in the 21st Century.

    January 31, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Reply
  22. dwight

    Despite the Arab Spring movement the nations aren't in any better standing than they were before the movement. When one dictator was kicked out a Muslim backed leader was move in and the people are now worse off. Sometimes change is just change.

    January 31, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Reply
  23. dale lawrie

    Based on my limited experience in-country (88 – 91) working w/the ISI, this is a very perceptive and insightful piece.
    No change of any consequence will be possible until the literacy rate is increased by an order of magnitude. The masses are influenced by the less than educated Mullahs. The inteligentsia are intimidated by the military and the military is subverted by the ISI. The tribal mentality that holds sway in the NWFP is another major factor in keeping Pakistan an intergal part of the 3rd or perhaps 4th world. What can be favorably said about a government whose stated security policy is – "the law of the land ends at the edge of the road".

    January 31, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Reply
  24. Johnna

    We need a huge meteorite to come down and wipe out the terrorist country of Pakistan once and for all. While we're at it, send a big one into the middle east and solve that nasty problem as well !!!!!!!

    January 31, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Reply
    • ShahNawaz Ansari

      How romantic Wondr if your mama got gang r-aped in India today?

      January 31, 2013 at 9:50 pm | Reply
      • Hawkeye

        Everyone is not so lucky like your mom!

        February 2, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • Teri to Mein $&^#$%@%

      And that huge meteorite will wipe of India too.

      February 1, 2013 at 5:38 am | Reply
  25. cheekyindian

    Pakistan is not a nation as it is now. Part of the country is controlled by tribal leaders with no clear ideology of a nation or nationality. Then you have the army which wants complete control but does not have the capacity to control a nation. They can be disciplined but that is all. Running a nation is not what an army is simply built for. The court and politicians are mere puppets. People are divided in the name of religion and ethnicity. And their economy is in shambles. Corporate Pakistan is non existent and therefore so are decent employment opportunities. I fail to see Pakistan going anywhere from here. They might implode any time.

    January 31, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  26. Yousaf

    Nothing works in Pakistan. Neither Democracy nor Dictatorship.

    January 31, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Reply
    • Work

      No if India offer them their top of the lie pu$$y$, then it would work.

      February 1, 2013 at 5:42 am | Reply
      • Hawkeye

        You are habitual of camel pus&ii or pathans backend ..............bandar kya jaane adrak ka sawad!

        February 2, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
  27. paki

    first pakistan must free baluchistan. they have already killed millions of ppl. there. world does not know this because they jst read what cnn and bbc prints.

    January 31, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Reply
  28. Rick

    Pakistan does not have a choice except to become moderate, respect women and minority rights and be fair to its own people and the world around. Else it will find difficult to survive.

    January 31, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Reply
    • Hussein Hamlips

      Phuk dat !
      No real Muslim will go for that gay stuff.

      February 1, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Reply
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