Friday, November 23, 2007

As Pakistan Turns

The political scene in Pakistan has played out like a soap opera.
Backstory: During the 1990s, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto exchanged the title of prime minister of Pakistan with each other back and forth. The one in power was the face of dictatorial corruption and the one not in power represented hope, change, accountability, and democracy.

During the mid 1990s, a former cricket captain, national hero, and relative of one of my friends, came onto the political scene. Imran Khan started a fledgling party to counteract the cycle of corruption rampant at the country's highest level.

Meanwhile, a man named Pervez Musharraf continued to work his way up the military ladder.

In 1999, it happened to be Nawaz Sharif's turn to run Pakistan into the ground again. He had recently fired his military chief and replaced him with a man named Pervez Musharraf. Sharif continued to be weary of the military power. One night, Musharraf was on his way back to Pakistan when his plane was hijacked in a sense. Sharif ordered the aircraft not be allowed to land in the country. He told them to go to Bombay if they wanted to land. Bombay, of course, is located in enemy territory.

The military caught wind of what was going on and dethroned Sharif. After his plane landed in Pakistan with barely enough fuel, Musharraf was placed in power. Immediately Sharif and Bhutto were forced to flee the country.

Musharraf's rule towed the line of having to cater to the demands of the United States in the war on terror while not upsetting his constituency. He held the duel roles of Pakistani president and military chief throughout.

2007: With an election approaching this year, Musharraf took actions to make sure he stayed in power. He suspended the chief justice of the supreme court because they disagreed. This made him immensely unpopular in a country where the elite are very conscious of how they are viewed in the wider world, especially when compared to rival India.

This fall, with the election approaching, suddenly old faces started to reappear. Muharraf and Bhutto were in negotiations to come to a power-sharing agreement.

Nawaz Sharif wanted back in and flew to Pakistan, for the first time since he fled. Upon arrival a tense standoff occurred while Sharif was on his plane on the tarmac. Sharif was whisked away and found himself on a plane to Saudi Arabia.

The next to attempt to come back was Benazir Bhutto. She arrived amongst cheers that she would restore democracy back to Pakistan. Perhaps short-memories are a national attribute.

Now: Soon after, Musharraf declared a state of emergency. He deterred his political enemies, which was just about everyone in Pakistan by this point. Bhutto was placed under house arrest. The police came for the small time, under-funded cricket player-turn-politician. But Imran Khan ran and hid. Eventually he gave himself up to the cheers of students gathered at a rally. Bhutto's house arrest was eventually lifted. International pressure has continued to build on Musharraf's shoulders. He hasn't kept his promises of democracy and now his rule is hurting his country.

In this crazy scene, Nawaz Sharif is intending to make another trip back to Pakistan this Sunday. Join us next time for As Pakistan Turns.

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