As election results continue to come in, it is worth noting that something like this is a rarity for this strategically important country. As someone who has been watching the elections from afar, I wanted to give my two cents regarding the election. Follow me under the fold
What is taking place in Pakistan right now is what most observers have expected, maybe ever better if you are a supporter for Nawaz Sharif. As for myself, I have no horses in this race. Although I was born in Pakistan, I have never considered it "my country." I have many relatives there, and have watched with sadness as the country has started and stalled its progress, something that it is probably quite used to now.
It is intriguing to note that, so far, this has been the first non-violent shift of power. For a country used to feuds, upheavals, and coups, it should be commended. Pakistan is a country whose worst enemy is itself. For historical reasons, progress has ebbed and flowed and one hopes that with this next transition, it brings peace and prosperity. ON the one hand, you have Nawaz Sharif, billionaire TV magnet, and someone who has held the reins of power once before being deposed. On the other side, national hero Imran Khan. While Khan's loss will be a disappointment to many, I would argue that this is a good thing. Pakistanis, especially the younger generation needed someone like Imran Khan. So far, Pakistani politics and society in general are hopelessly feudal. To have a relative outsideer like Khan come in and give energy is something refreshing from an outsider's perspective.
In order for Pakistan to progress further, it needs to first address two things--corruption and religious extremism. It will likely have a hard time addressing both. Unlike India who does not have the religious problem, I would argue that it's strict adherence to piety and deference to extremist clerics are the root of its problems. In order to placate these individuals, the secular world leaves them alone and gives them resources. This in turn in many situations leads to the spread of extremist ideas to children and the rest of society. Now, I am not saying there are forces of good in pakistan. There are, and they don't get the attention they deserve. Unfortunately, the extremists are the ones that get play. The other prong is corruption, which widely persists for historical reasons. Since Pakistan has been through so many forms of rule, there are no systems in place for effective governance. The people of Pakistan are smart. But their worst enemy is themselves. Everyone thinks they are more clever than the next guy. This hubris is what continues the cycle of cynicism. Add to that a weak government and strong oligarchy. What you get is a system for cronyism and weak upward mobility. That has to change.
While there are no clear cut solutions, I hope that the next government takes some of the ideas from Khan's campaign and make it clear that they will not tolerate corruption and extremism. Unfortunately I do not think this will happen. One can only hope that some upheaval or idea comes along in that society and people turn to the idea of accountability. One example, and a sad one, is what India is doing to confront the rape of women. It is sad that such a dastardly act gets people on their feet. But it is a step that a developing country needs to take, and I hope it will. I would love to hear other's thoughts on this topic