Revolution From Within: Is Violent Political Confrontation Imminent In Pakistan?

"Change isn't coming...its here!" says Imran Khan to his supporters.

But what sort of change is it going to be?

With bated breath and a growing sense of horror, I am tracking current events in Pakistan, where Imran Khan looks determined to lead more than 50,000 unarmed supporters on a march through barricades reportedly guarded by police, military, and/or paramilitary forces.

Imran became a national hero as the captain of the only Pakistani cricket team to win a World Cup, and he did it by taking matters into his own hands, dominating the final game, apparently through force of will. After he retired from cricket, he became a philanthropist, creating a foundation to raise money to build hospitals, in a country where they were badly needed. And then he became politician.

As leader of the PTI party, he has been gradually gaining ground "within the system." But now he is suddenly working "outside the system," leading a protest demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.

Nawaz Sharif says he will negotiate on any issue except resignation. Imran says resignation is his only non-negotiable demand, and that he is prepared to lead a procession of unarmed supporters into Islamabad's heavily guarded "Red Zone," seeking the immediate overthrow of the government.

Imran says there's a game-changing announcement coming at 8pm local time tonight -- less than two hours from now, as I write.

The rest of the original post is on my main blog. But periodic updates are on the comment thread below.


Tinder box

It sounds like Khan and the Govt have set in place a combustible situation that is just waiting for some psychopath with a box of matches (Molotov Cocktail).

With the bankers of New York and London trying to create as much chaos around the world as possible, it should suit their purposes well.

Somehow I can't imagine Vladimir Putin allowing himself to be put into this position.

A gross oversimplification

This post is a gross oversimplification of a very complex situation, but I couldn't find the time and energy to write in greater detail, especially given the time-sensitive nature of the information.

Among other things, it is remarkable that the protests, which have been going on for several days and involve other political parties as well, have remained non-violent.

But yes, James, there is always the potential that outside interests could attempt to use this confrontation for their own purposes.

A violent clash seems moments away

From Dawn, just a few minutes ago:

"I'm coming! I'm coming to hold you accountable!" Imran says, as his mobile-container progresses forward. ... On the other side of the containers, a massive contingent of security forces await the marchers. ... Policemen in riot gear -- helmets, shields, batons, knee pads -- are seen patrolling the entrance of the Red Zone. A violent clash seems moments away.

Skirmishes reported

Protesters have entered the Red Zone, without any major resistance. A few skirmishes have been reported, but there are no reports of injuries so far.

I am continuing to update this post:

Calm at the moment

It appears the government is prepared to leave the protesters in the Red Zone overnight.

It is a very strange set of developments, to be sure.

No one -- not even Imran's fiercest opponents -- will question the purity of his heart. But many, even among his friends and supporters, are wondering whether he's lost his mind.

What next?

If khan is successful in forcing Nawaz Sharif to resign, what's next? Does replacing the puppet replace the puppet masters or make a dent in their system? I think not. Meanwhile a lot of people are being put at risk.

It seems to me that a better strategy would be to think about what the puppet masters and their system are dependent on and take that away. Or at least attempt to.

The puppet masters are not dependent on taxation revenues. They can't be held hostage by the withholding of money they created in the first place because they will just create some more out of the same thin air they used to create the current money supply.

that's a good question!

The situation in Pakistan is always volatile. Among other things, poverty is endemic, suicide bombings happen with nauseating regularity, and nuclear weapons are never quite out of the discussion. It's difficult to see what even a responsible, active, well-meaning government could accomplish under these conditions. Not that Pakistan has seen such a government recently ... but it's easy to see how people could get fed up with the situation and want to support somebody who is trying to force a change for the better.

It's the people who are willing to put themselves at risk that make the situation so compelling, at least to me. And one of Imran's stated aims is "to wake up the people of Pakistan," so on this level he seems to be succeeding. But as compelling and dramatic (and romantic) as it seems at the moment, there is also reality to be considered.

In other words, even if Imran were to succeed in installing "a real democracy," as he claims he wants to do, what could possibly happen then? The country -- with or without Imran running the show -- would still face very powerful forces who will never allow any "real" democracy to thrive -- not if they can help it.

Nonetheless I find the whole story well worth following, if only for the obvious contrasts between what is happening there and what is not happening here. But as always, that's only my own two cents.

No argument here from me

At least with you, WP. I might have an argument with Imran Khan, though. I'm sure if I was a Pakistani and aware of only the little I am of what has been going on there, I'd be beside myself with frustration and rage. It is mind-numbingly insane.

But is Imran Khan awakening the Pakistani awareness or their rage? Too often have we seen people's rage used against them. Too often is it aimed at the wrong (or at least way less culpable) people who are accurately named "flack-catchers".

Pakistan has been repairing diplomatic relations with India (a division created from the beginning and nurtured by the PTB in London ever since). I think this rapprochement has been at the urging of both Russia (who has traditionally had friendly relations with India) and China (who has had friendly relations with Pakistan). Pakistan, along with India, have been invited to the next SCO meeting.

It might all be unconnected, of course, and there's no denying the outrages that have been perpetrated against Pakistan by the US and with the support of one treasonous Pakistani govt after another. So the rage is there and more than justified, but is it yet another case of "bait and switch"?

the standoff continues

Things are still tense, and with another deadline approaching.

I am not going to be able to do a lot of blogging today, but I will keep an eye on the situation ... and if anything momentous happens I'll let you know.

and continues

Yes, the standoff is still continuing. I hope this means it can be resolved without bloodshed.

they're talking now

from Dawn:

After nearly a week of stonewalling, both Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) have begun talking to the government, a day after the army made it clear that both sides must put an end to the impasse through discussion.

This comes as both party chiefs have stuck to their guns and continued to demand the resignation of the prime minister and his cabinet.

Meanwhile, the army has refused to mediate between the government and the protesting parties to defuse the political crisis and has instead asked both sides to work for a settlement on their own.

Previously it has been reported that Nawaz sent an emissary to ask the army brass whether they were supporting the protesting parties, and the answer came back, "The good news is: no, they're not. The bad news is: if you want your government to survive, it is going to have to 'share space' with the army."

As usual, it's a good idea not to forget who has all the guns.


So Khan finds his efforts shanghaied by the military to increase their own power and presumably against Khan and the protestors in the very near future. Neat!

I'm glad they are still talking never-the-less

update du jour

They've gone back to not talking. Plenty of interesting developments today but no breakthrough.

USA has weighed in, saying no extra-constitutional transfer of power would be acceptable. Imran says US should stop meddling in Pakistani affairs. Judging from comment threads, this is the only question on which all Pakistanis agree. (Sarcasm is alive and well in Pakistan: one comment said, "The USA has a long and transparent record of not meddling in foreign countries.")

Meanwhile -- paraphrasing now ... Nawaz had tweeted, "You can spend the rest of your lives camping in the Red Zone, but I am not resigning," to which Imran replied, "I might just do that. We're not leaving until you resign." So Nawaz closed the entrances to the Red Zone once again, and now the protesters are trapped inside the barricades they worked so hard to cross. (Another comment said, "I am not a supporter of this government, but well played, Nawaz!")

The police assigned to guard the capital are bored. They're saying there's nothing to do except "stand around all day like a herd of goats." I suppose there are more difficult ways to make a living, but clearly this is not what the police signed up for. On the other hand, there has been very little violence. I saw reports of a couple of bloody noses a couple of days ago, but nothing else. Needless to say, I continue to hope the situation can be resolved without any further violence.

But it's still tense and nobody knows what might happen. Imran has been unpredictable, Nawaz stubborn in his resistance. The police and army have been remarkably restrained, the government has been very patient. It's hard to imagine something like this happening anywhere else, or with anyone else in the middle of it.

Imran is a national hero twice over (as a sportsman and then as a philanthropist) and nobody wants to see him get hurt. The demands he's presenting are all about the establishment of a transparent democratic process, which he knows will never happen under Nawaz, and that's why he is demanding that Nawaz resign as a precondition. A lot of people are questioning Imran's tactics even though they support his goals.

The good old USA, through a State Department trumpet, has played the old song, "You had an election. That was a democratic process. If you don't like the results, wait until the next election and do better. That's the democratic process."

Still paraphrasing: Previously Imran has been saying, "Look. the results were disputed. They said they would do a recount but they haven't done it. They said they would investigate claims of rigging, but they haven't done that, either. And clearly they have no intention of doing it, and that's why we need to get rid of them if we want a real democracy. What's the good of an election if you can't verify the results?"

Now in the wake of the State Department serenade, Imran has asked, "What would happen in the US if a Congressman claimed the election had been rigged? Wouldn't that trigger a full-blown investigation?" And that may be a diplomatic way of putting it, but the truth is: NO! If a Congressman ever claimed an election had been rigged, the pundits and both parties would start screaming "Conspiracy Theorist!" and before long this Congressman would be slinking away in disgrace, possibly having been forced to resign his seat and/or to disassociate himself from his party. Because -- to American politicians, elephant and donkey alike -- a good election is one in which nobody can verify the results! Or in other words:


Dear Imran,

RIGGED is the way Americans LIKE their elections.
That's how they like YOUR elections, too.

Best wishes

talking again

They are talking again and the tension seems to be subsiding. Still plenty of opportunities for things to go really crazy, though.

The best song of the day came from the US State Department, and it was the familiar ditty that starts out "We're not meddling!" Unsung, but clearly understood, was the refrain that goes, "We weren't meddling yesterday, when we told you what would or would not be acceptable, and we won't be meddling tomorrow, as long as nobody does anything unacceptable. Ooh ooh ... Baby baby"

No, no, perish the thought. We're not meddling at all, actually. We just thought it might be a good time to remind a few people of a few things that nobody should ever forget, especially at this critical time in the development of Pakistan's democracy. Which matters to us a great deal. Don'cha know. Baby baby.

I will try to keep updating this story via comments on this thread, unless something outrageous happens ... just in case anyone is reading.

Well, I'm reading and those

Well, I'm reading and those numbers can't be all be from dotmil addresses smiling

Gotta dash and thanks for the updates, WP

on again, off again

Talks have resumed again, and broken down again.

Nawaz went out for lunch the other day with President Zardari, who says he supports the constitutional process. (Big surprise there. These are the two men who would stand to lose the most if the protesters had their way.)

As far as I can tell, the situation is still tense, but in a mellow sort of way. The government is showing a lot of patience, the army and police are showing a lot of restraint, and it begins to look as if Nawaz may be hoping the protesters will get tired of accomplishing nothing and drift away on their own. Who's to say? I am not about to tell you that couldn't happen. I still think virtually anything could happen ... and I will try to keep you posted.

Supreme Court says "make way!"

The Supreme Court has ordered the protesters to leave Constitution Avenue -- the main entrance to the Supreme Court building -- by Tuesday morning.

According to Dawn:

The bench was hearing a petition filed by Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Kamran Murtaza and other members of the legal fraternity. The petition argues that the protesters are breaching the rights of the common citizen as enshrined in articles 15 and 16 ensuring freedom of movement and right of assembly.
The protesters have been sitting in front of the Parliament House and the Supreme Court building since August 19, making the road impassable for the SC, PM and Secretariat employees.
Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) president Shafqat Chohan said that people are facing extreme problems in reaching the Supreme Court premises. He said that law enforcement personnel appear helpless in front of these political workers.

Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk said that demonstrators had occupied Constitution Avenue and that they were checking vehicles and passers-by, while this is the job of the security personnel.

He said that SC judges were coming to court through an alternate route due to the closure of Constitution Avenue, while the attendance of SC employees was also very low due to the situation.

more details at the link.

I'll be back with another update when I can swing it.

Confusion persists

Dawn again: Confusion persists over SC direction about removal of marchers

Police officials say they have not received any direction to vacate Constitution Avenue
... officials of the interior ministry, police and the local administration on the condition of anonymity said: “We will wait for a clear direction from the Supreme Court for getting the sit-in sites vacated.”

They said the interior ministry, police and the local administration would not act without a clear direction.

“Definitely, if the direction is issued, force will be used against the marchers if they refused to vacate the venue,” they said.

They were of the view that one lane of the avenue would be [cleared] through negotiations without using force.
They said an intelligence agency and the police special branch had also suggested that force should not be used against the protesters.

So far, still peaceful. Remarkable stuff. But still very tense.

Imran Khan has been criticized (by many people who know far more than I do) for his conduct in many respects, and I don't know enough to argue with them. But the demands he's been making, as far as I can tell, are all about the electoral process, and nothing on his list would benefit him or his party directly -- unless they happen to get many more "votes" than they got last time. And that's entirely possible, but it doesn't seem very likely. More to the point, in my view, the reforms proposed by Imran and his PTI party would bring a little bit more transparency and accountability to the Pakistani democratic process.

Paraphrasing again: Some of the people I've been reading, including people who voted for PTI in the 2013 elections, are saying, "How can he justify an attack against the democratic process in an attempt to improve it?"
It's a difficult question, especially considering some of the things we've been talking about earlier on this thread. In other words, any "damage" to the "democracy" is bound to be "repaired" by the army.

That's part of what makes this story so important ... and so compelling ... to me, anyway. I'll be back with more when I can.

the protesters are not going away

This from The Frontier Post :

PAT, PTI refuse to move sit-ins to alternate place: AGP

ISLAMABAD (FP Monitoring Desk) The Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) has informed the Supreme Court that the PTI and PAT are not willing to shift their protests to an alternative place, Local TV reported on Tuesday.

In a statement submitted to the court he said that the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have refused to pull back from Constitution Avenue of the federal capital.

A Supreme Court bench comprises of five judges, headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk while hearing a petition against the protests at Constitution Avenue in Islamabad on Monday, directed the counsels of PAT, PTI and the Attorney General to work together to come up with a solution which allows free movement on Constitution Avenue.

The report said that in compliance to the court’s order, the Attorney General held a meeting with both parties’ counsels, regarding the clearance of Constitution Avenue for free movement. They were offered an alternative place for their sit-ins, however they have rejected this offer. They were offered alternative places at Sports Complex and Faizabad but they refused to move their sit-ins.

The Attorney General’s report further said that the two parties were not given NOC for their protests at Constitution Avenue.

The counsel of PAT said that party is not willing to shift to any other place. The counsel, however, stated that PAT would endeavor to make arrangements for facilitating the flow of traffic along Constitution Avenue.

PTI counsel informed the court that workers of PTI have not blocked any routes nor are they causing any hindrance in the movement of people.

He further stated that the protest is taking place in the Parade Ground, which is away from Parliament House and other buildings nearby.

protesters are moving again ... but not leaving!

Qadri, Imran direct marchers to move towards PM House ‘peacefully’

After staging anti-government protest sit-ins for two weeks in front of Parliament building in the federal capital, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) Chief Dr Tahirul Qadri and Pakistan Thereek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Saturday night directed their followers to march towards the Prime Minister House.

Speaking to participants of their respective sit-ins, they urged them to show restraint and march peacefully towards the PM House.

Dr Qadri called upon PTI protesters and chairman Imran Khan to move along with them.

PTI Chairman Khan later announced to join the PAT marchers and urged his supporters to move towards the PM House peacefully. He told women participating in the protest that they should not panic and stay calm.

Heavy contingents of police and security forces were deployed in Islamabad's Red Zone in the wake of anti-government protest demonstration by the two parties.

Reacting to the development, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif warned marchers against taking law into their own hands. He said that contingents of Pakistan Army deployed at Constitution Avenue were under ministry of interior.

Asif vowed that Army would protect all government institutions.

I continue to hope for a peaceful settlement of this ongoing impasse. And I will keep you posted as conditions permit.

All hell breaks loose

Bad news from Islamabad, via Dawn:

Islamabad protests: All hell breaks loose

The capital city’s high security area, the Red Zone, resembled a battlefield as marchers from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, en route to their new destination – the Prime Minister’s House – clashed with security personnel.

Just after 10pm, when both Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan gave their supporters their marching orders, advancing demonstrators heading towards The Presidency, Cabinet Division and Pakistan Secretariat were met with rubber bullets and tear-gas from the heavy police contingents deployed in the area.

Protesters, mostly men, armed with sticks advanced onward towards the PM’s House, which is located behind the Presidency and the Secretariat. Initially, police and security personnel deployed on Constitution Avenue moved back and allowed them through. However, when charged activists tried to storm official buildings, they were met with force.

According to DawnNews, at least one person was killed – a woman from the PAT camp – and well over a 150 people injured. Then, just before midnight, the protesters began to push back and hit out at the law enforcement personnel with anything they could lay their hands on – batons, sticks and stones, marbles and slingshots.

Violence continues.

Dawn is updating this page:

I guess the question now is,

I guess the question now is, will it spread?

protesters surround Parliament

After violent clashes, protesters surround Parliament

Helicopters are encircling Parliament house as protesters continue to press forward, only to be pushed back by police action.

The early morning has seen multiple pitched battles already.

Dawn is posting live updates on this page:

one or more dead, hundreds injured, marches continue

from Dawn:

Battleground Islamabad: PM back in capital as Imran, Qadri supporters clash with police

Hundreds of people were injured in the federal capital as police battled throngs of protesters led by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) Chief Dr Tahirul Qadri.

The protesters - demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif - were held back with tear gas, batons and rubber bullets outside the prime minister's official residence and the adjacent parliament building.

After a night of clashes, protesters regrouped on Sunday and repeatedly clashed with the heavy deployment of security forces. Some 25,000 people marched on the prime minister's house late Saturday after talks with the government mediated by the army failed to end the political impasse.

As far as I can tell, the army has been quiet. The police defending the government are civilians.

I have seen various reports as to deaths. Some say 1, some say 3, the PAT leader says 13, and he also says many more are expected -- even if no further violence happens -- because so many of the injuries are so serious.

Negotiations happened again and broke down again. The protesters say they will continue marching.
The government just finished a high-level meeting and says it will "defend state institutions at all costs".

meanwhile, parliament ...
PM summons joint session of Parliament on Tuesday

meanwhile, the army ...
Corps commanders meeting begins on Gen Raheel's call

Here's an interesting Dawn editorial

Live updates on the situation are here at the moment:

From the Dawn editorial-

"The very idea that a few thousand baton-wielding protesters can march towards Prime Minister House without some explicit assurances behind the scenes is absurd. Quite what those assurances are and what the endgame ultimately is will be known soon, perhaps overnight or in a day or two."

What do you make of this curious paragraph,WP?

very curious indeed, James

They have more conspiracy theorists on their editorial board than we do. Wink

... and the standoff continues ...

Islamabad stand-off: PTI, PAT plan to battle on

The plan to oust the PML-N led government and topple Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from power is reaching critical mass.

The last 48 hours saw the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) anti-government protests morph Islamabad's Red Zone from a concert ground to a bloody battlefield, with at least three people killed and hundreds injured.

The deadly confrontation shows little signs of letting up, as both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have encouraged their supporters to battle on, while negotiations with the government appear to be going nowhere - despite the Pakistan Army playing the role of 'mediator'.

Demanding Sharif's resignation, the protesters remain camped outside government offices, armed with sticks and wearing gas masks, tried to break through police lines.

much more at the same link including this very interesting bit:

Islamabad police SSP vows to protect 'innocent protesters'

SSP Islamabad Police Asmatullah speaking to the media said those behind attacks on journalists will be brought to justice. He vowed to protect innocent protesters and allow food to reach protesters as they are like "brothers of the police".

“Whoever was responsible for assaulting media persons and bringing disgracing the image of Islamabad police will be held accountable,” he said. He also apologised for the "excessive use of force".

“Islamabad will never use excessive force against protesters. We will never use force against women and children who are among the protesters.”

He said that the police hasn’t set the red lines but they have been given the constitutional right to defend certain red lines.

He said that those who attacked vehicles have brought disgrace to the Islamabad police.

“Allama Tahirul Qadri is a noble person who does greats work for the common people. Imran Khan is a great leader who is looked up to by millions of people,” he said.

Meanwhile, the army ...

Political crisis must end through political means, Army says

After a lengthy four hour meeting at General Headquarters, the Pakistan Army corps commanders came out with a statement "reaffirming support to democracy" and reiterating that the current stand-off between the PML-N led government and the Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaaf (PTI), Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) needed a political solution.

The meeting, which was headed by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif, saw the corps commanders reject "further use of force" in the crisis, an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release stated.

The commanders also expressed "serious concern" over the violent turn of events in the federal capital.
The Army's message in support of the political process comes at a time when speculation is rife that the current crisis is being steered by, or has tacit approval from the powerful military establishment. The conclusions of the corps commanders meeting today will, for the moment, help in allaying fears of military intervention in the crisis.
The events revived concerns about the conventional issue in Pakistani politics: competition for power between the military and civilian leaders. The new statement from today's meeting however, suggests the army remains apolitical, despite its direct involvement in the current crisis.

wearing thin

No earth-shattering news at the moment but plenty of interesting links:

Patience is wearing thin in powerful places

Govt considering decisive action against protesters: Asif

a reasonable settlement might still be possible

Let sanity prevail, before its too late

here's story of police attacking reporters

On Constitution Avenue, journalism is a crime

and a young man with injuries that appear to be caused by rubber bullets.
doctors won't say what they are until they remove them

If not a bullet, then what?

a history of military coups in Pakistan

All Fall Down

Musical chairs

Thanks for all the links, WP. It seems the faces change but the music and the game remain the same in Pakistan. From reading your links, I get the impression that the people and various reform groups over the decades get squeezed between a pincer movement of political parties that represent banker interests (rather than even the industrialists and businessmen and certainly not the ordinary people) on the one hand and the military (which presumably responds to international bankers and always have) on the other hand.

It's appears to me to be a wrinkle of the two party Hegelian System we are most familiar with. The people and reform movements are historically attracted to one side then the other but either way they end up squished between the two major forces. These two forces are like the blades of a pair of scissors that rest in the palm of one hand.

The Defence Minister, Asif (great name) says there is zero chance of Nawaz stepping down. Whenever a politician says something like that, I automatically put it at the top of the list of most likely outcomes.

Perhaps we are about to see a changing of the guard with the military about to take over either overtly or covertly to 'save the nation' and the Mighty Khan is playing the role of the catalyst wittingly or unwittingly.

I suspect that "Khan" is a common name in Pakistan but Imran wouldn't happen to be related to the Ali/Aga Khan dynasty by any chance, would he?

yes and no

Hi James

Thanks for the many good comments. It's easy to understand why there are so many "conspiracy theories" floating around Pakistani politics, is it not?

The bit about "zero chance of Nawaz stepping down" is beautiful, isn't it? It's also reminiscent of many other situations, all of which are about to fall apart. I remember one job I had (for a while). We got a notice one day saying "definitely no cutbacks coming," and then the next day a bunch of us got laid off. Oh well. It was true for 24 hours. What can you expect?

As for your last bit, yes and no. It's a common name, and to the best of my knowledge, they are not related.

I have been reading some other interesting commentary on the situation and will post more links when I can swing it, for you and whoever else may be interested.

Thanks again and best wishes too

meetings and high hopes

Hopes for 'good news' as PTI, PAT meet negotiators

It's good to see they're talking again.
But the situation is still tense and rife with unpleasant possibilities.

The real battle

This piece from Zahid Hussain in Dawn is worth reading in full but I will give you a sample

The real battle

IT seems that a perfectly choreographed political show is being unfolded in Islamabad. The drop scene has yet to be decided; perhaps no ending has been envisaged at all. The siege of the Red Zone and the storming of the Prime Minister House were supposed to be the endgame. But new twists and turns have caused the plot to thicken, and the nation has been gripped by the spectacle of a violent mob rampaging through Constitution Avenue.

New characters keep coming on stage, creating more suspense — first, parliament, then the army and now the Supreme Court in the act of playing arbiter. But can they force a decision and break the stalemate? It will certainly not be easy to get a negotiated political settlement as the situation becomes more and more complex. While efforts by the army were stalled after the prime minister reneged on his request for facilitation, the offer by the Supreme Court still awaits the consent of the parties in the conflict.

There now exists a deep ambivalence about whether the army can play the role of an honest broker or whether it is also a party to the conflict. While analysing the stand-off one must not miss the elephant in the room. The conflict between the civil and military leadership is surely a major source of the present impasse. Political tension and uncertainty cannot be removed without relations between Sharif and the military leadership being straightened out.

Whether there is a nexus between Imran Khan/Tahirul Qadri and the military remains to be proven. But the revelation by Javed Hashmi, the senior-most Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader, lends credence to the speculation about some tacit understanding between these two protest leaders and elements within the army.

It also seems quite plausible that the decision to march on Islamabad and demand the resignation of the prime minister may have been strongly influenced by reports of increasing tension between the civil and military leadership. Qadri in particular has been flaunting his love for the army. Huge banners in his camp pledging allegiance to the forces have fed into the conspiracy theories.

I think he is saying: The real battle is between the military and the civilian leadership. The PAT/PTI protesters are apparently being used by the military to weaken the civilian government, which still has not come up with a suitable response. And therefore the military is winning.

Deja vu

Hi WP,
I can't help but think this is a replay of sorts where the British govt played the role of benevolent mediator in many ex colonial conflicts but was in fact a major player and manipulated the other conflicted parties by holding out the offer of help only to determine the outcome in accordance with their own interests.

It seems to me that the Pakistani military (most likely controlled by the masters of double dealing, the ISI) has learnt well from their former(?) colonial masters and are repeating the playbook.

It makes sense of that paragraph we were puzzling over about the march and "assurances" given or not given.

Yes indeed

It does make a lot of sense, and it shows (once again) why so many "conspiracy theories" spring up.

It's because deals are arranged, assurances are given, and plans are made behind closed doors ALL THE TIME!

In organized crime, this is how things are always done. Nobody doubts it.

In business, it's called "racketeering," and it is the most commonly investigated crime of all.

But we are conditioned to believe that nothing of the sort ever happens in politics.

And that's why we never actually understand anything.

here's one for you, James

Check out this Dawn editorial called "Economic impact of street politics"

ISLAMABAD may be shut, but Pakistan is open for business.

Factories are humming, raw materials are moving freely on the roads, people are commuting to and from work, cellular communications remain uninterrupted.

The rupee has seen some declines, more likely due to developments intrinsic to the markets themselves rather than the crisis.

Forex reserves are broadly stable, the stock market has seen good days and bad throughout this affair, and there have been only marginal declines.

Even the collection of taxes and recovery of bills in the power sector are normal, despite calls for ‘civil disobedience’.

Attempts to spread the rallies to Lahore and Karachi and other cities have floundered and there has been little disruption in day-to-day life anywhere else in Pakistan, with no general strikes, no closures of roads and petrol pumps, schools or offices, no halt in public transport.

Beyond this, however, the damage is huge, difficult to quantify, and of a lasting nature.

And what damage might that be?

Those looking in from the outside are asking how sturdy the political system in Pakistan really is.

Talks with the IMF are at a standstill, and it is likely that the next tranche will be delayed. The World Bank is worried about the future of its massive Country Partnership Strategy, worth $11bn and announced just this April.

Meanwhile, government work has ground to a halt, and although the machinery continues to function in the rest of the country, the ministries and secretariats and committees are all on standby.

In short, whereas daily life is largely untouched, the strategic outlook for the country has suffered a considerable blow.

There's more at the link.

Meanwhile, talks continue sporadically, and no further violence has been reported (as far as I know). So a "peaceful" settlement still appears possible. Yet the tension is still very high.

I will keep updating this thread as conditions permit.

The long view

I guess it is hard to develop a long term economic future which relies on business profitability when you have to constantly factor in a military that is primarily interested in power. This power is interested in money, for sure, but would rather steal it today than wait for profits tomorrow.

This is also the essential difference, in my view, between bankers (the major corruptors of the military) and the industrialists.

the equation of power and money

the equation of power and money couldn't be made clearer:

Factories are humming, raw materials are moving freely on the roads, people are commuting to and from work, cellular communications remain uninterrupted.


Talks with the IMF are at a standstill, and ... the World Bank is worried.

Indeed, WP. Money is seen and

Indeed, WP. Money is seen and used in two different ways by the two different groups. The trouble is that only one group is aware of how money is 'weaponised', to use a current expression.

There is actually a lot in that article. Thank you for posting it.

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