As the Pakistani anti-terrorism court prepares to indict former President Pervez Musharraf over the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the UN official who conducted the special investigation into her death recounts his own search for answers.
The high turnout for the recent general election indicates that the Pakistani public is warming up to democracy. But participation is a double-edged sword: by virtue of having had its voice heard, the public now has heightened expectations of government performance. If Sharif fails to deliver, public disaffection could set in rather quickly and powerfully.
Pakistan’s long election season, which has effectively spanned almost two years, will conclude less than a week from now. On May 11, over fifteen thousand candidates from dozens of political parties will contest close to 850 directly-elected national and provincial assembly seats. Between 35 and 40 million Pakistani voters are expected to take part in the polls.
In Pakistan these days, a strange kind of schizophrenia is afoot, as the excitement over completing five, fulsome years of democratic rule competes with a growing tension with Afghanistan. Over the past couple of weeks, Pakistani officials and Afghan leaders have accused each other of fomenting terrorism, disturbingly raising the pitch and dropping all pretence of good neighbourly relations.
For the past several weeks, thousands have rallied around a single issue: bringing to justice the collaborators who, in early 1971, helped the Pakistani military put down the Bengali nationalist movement. The timing might seem strange, since the demands for justice are coming well over four decades after the tragic events. But they are part of a struggle over Bangladesh’s identity that has raged for decades.
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari arrives in Iran today to sign a series of economic agreements, including one that finalizes the Iran-Pakistan natural gas pipeline. At the end of January, the two sides agreed to set up a joint construction company to build the portion of the pipeline that will be on Pakistani soil. Iran is providing $500 million to finance a third of the project with Pakistan covering the remaining $1 billion. 781 km of the 1,881 km pipeline will be on Pakistani soil.
Pakistan is in the grips of militancy because of its fraught relationship with India, with which it has fought three wars and innumerable skirmishes since the countries separated in 1947. Militants were cultivated as an equalizer, to make Pakistan safer against a much larger foe. But they have done the opposite, killing Pakistanis at home and increasing the likelihood of catastrophic conflicts abroad.