A Sikh Stands for Democracy in Pakistan

Guest blogged by Mewa Singh

I did not think I was going to write this post, but after seeing a post on the most popular South Asian American blog – Sepia Mutiny – by Amardeep Singh, I had to make a comment about Musharraf’s resignation to avoid impeachment.

For a quick primer on the career of the Pakistani dictator – Pervez Musharraf, watch the Al-Jazeera video:

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In Amardeep’s post, he questions the real changes, especially economic, that will follow with Musharraf’s resignation. Having believed that Musharraf was already a spent force after the elections in February 2008, Amardeep concludes:

Musharrafs departure is obviously significant in the sense that he has been a dictator with a particularly lively persona, who ruled Pakistan during an especially eventful period of time.

But in real terms, he was already done, back in February.

While often I have agreed with Amardeep’s various posts, nothing could be so off as this one. I am a democrat (small d) and believe that all Sikhs should stand for democracy throughout the world (including our Gurdwaras and other Sikh institutions), especially in South Asia.

Democracy may be a flawed system and the Pakistani political parties in question are undeniably corrupt (as are the Republicans, Democrats, and their ilk), however that a dictator could be deposed by democratic forces should be reason to celebrate.

While Amardeep may be correct that Musharraf’s resignation may not mean that Pakistan is “now headed for greater stability or economic prosperity,” but this was hardly the case under Musharraf either.

Contrary to Amardeep’s “historical hindsight,” Musharraf was not “done in February.” A number of complex geopolitical moves involving the US abandoning Musharraf as well as the sentiments of the country had to be gauged. While Sharif may have had revenge in his mind for his call to remove Musharraf, that Zardari agreed has more to do with the general will of the Pakistani people and members of his party (for a complexity of different reasons) than only economic turmoil. The final page of the Musharraf saga had to be turned (hopefully it is the final page! Hopefully it is the final page of dictatorship and authoritarianism in Pakistan, but I won’t hold my breath).

Also with regards to democracy and stability/economic prosperity, there is a fascinating article in last month’s Foreign Policy magazine that touches on this issue in comparing China and India. It has been of some interest in the Sikh community due to the cover of this influential and popular magazine showing a FP_cover_small.jpgSikh on the cover. Titled “Asia’s New Miracle“, Professor Yasheng Huang, of the Sloan School of Management at MIT, condemns the authoritarianism under Indira Gandhi and believes that the “more free” (my phrase, although I do NOT believe India is very free) political system in India may be a lesson for China. The professor concludes:

After a long hiatus, China’s leadership has rhetorically returned to a vision of the 1980sthat political reforms should be a priority. Rural China has begun to recover from the neglect of the 1990s, and rural income has grown the fastest since 1989.

All this is good news. But consolidating these achievements will require a more substantial undoing of the illiberal policies of the 1990s. How India managed to emerge from its own long shadow of illiberalism offers some valuable lessons. In the past, China taught India the importance of social investments and economic opening. It is time for today’s China to take a page from Indiaand from the China of the 1980sthat political reforms are not antithetical to growth. They are the keys to a healthier and more sustainable foundation for the future.

That Pakistan would rid itself of the dictator-monkey Musharraf off its back may bode well for possible long-term growth, reforms, and freedom.


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12 Responses to “A Sikh Stands for Democracy in Pakistan”

  1. Mewa Singh says:

    Some members of the Sikh community in considering Musharraf's legacy are lamenting his departure. In fact, one Sikh living in India has even offered to invite Musharraf to his farmhouse. However, I do believe that one must unequivocally AND consistently demand democracy. I feel these people are foolish for trying to honor a tyrant.

    Democracy Now had a great interview on Monday morning with Ali Ahsan. From the website:

    Ali Ahsan, New York-based Pakistani lawyer. His father is Aitzaz Ahsan, a leader of the lawyer's movement and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association in Pakistan. He was one of the first persons jailed when Musharraf declared a state of emergency last year.

    Do get a chance to listen to it if you get time.

  2. Mewa Singh says:

    Some members of the Sikh community in considering Musharraf’s legacy are lamenting his departure. In fact, one Sikh living in India has even offered to invite Musharraf to his farmhouse. However, I do believe that one must unequivocally AND consistently demand democracy. I feel these people are foolish for trying to honor a tyrant.

    Democracy Now had a great interview on Monday morning with Ali Ahsan. From the website:

    Ali Ahsan, New York-based Pakistani lawyer. His father is Aitzaz Ahsan, a leader of the lawyer’s movement and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association in Pakistan. He was one of the first persons jailed when Musharraf declared a state of emergency last year.

    Do get a chance to listen to it if you get time.

  3. Mewa Singh says:

    A great post by Pakistani blogger and South Asian graduate student Manan Ahmed can be read here.

    Well. Pakistan just had a slow-burning, people-powered, secular revolution and they forced a sitting dictator – who had the complete confidence and support of the only superpower in the world – out. Peacefully. Without any bloodshed. Without any crazy mullah grabbing the nukes and blowing up the world. Without inflation hitting 10,000,000%. Without any riots. With suicide bombings in Lahore. With two regions embroiled in near civil-war. With the same corrupt politicians in charge. With the unshakeable faith, the belief, that they deserved justice. That they deserved the right to have the power to act. That they were citizens of their country, not keeps.

    This is unprecedented. This is historic. This is a momentous time in the history of this nation. It has successfully forced accountability – through peaceful and legal means – on its leaders. The people of Pakistan – lawyers and all – have exercised their agency.

  4. Mewa Singh says:

    A great post by Pakistani blogger and South Asian graduate student Manan Ahmed can be read here.

    Well. Pakistan just had a slow-burning, people-powered, secular revolution and they forced a sitting dictator – who had the complete confidence and support of the only superpower in the world – out. Peacefully. Without any bloodshed. Without any crazy mullah grabbing the nukes and blowing up the world. Without inflation hitting 10,000,000%. Without any riots. With suicide bombings in Lahore. With two regions embroiled in near civil-war. With the same corrupt politicians in charge. With the unshakeable faith, the belief, that they deserved justice. That they deserved the right to have the power to act. That they were citizens of their country, not keeps.

    This is unprecedented. This is historic. This is a momentous time in the history of this nation. It has successfully forced accountability – through peaceful and legal means – on its leaders. The people of Pakistan – lawyers and all – have exercised their agency.

  5. Mewa Singh says:

    Nader,

    Your comments reeks of ignoranc, racism, and even incoherence. Your categories of "Pakistanis" and "Afghanis" yield your sophistication of analysis.

  6. Nader Junaid says:

    Pakistanis are ignorant in self discipline or self control. Liberty for them is like a monkey dressed in fine silk who is bound to rip its own pride. There is no concept of merit or honesty at any level. Self deception is the law of the land. Similarly, Afghanis are masters of contradictions. They can pray five times a day but still make a living by dealing drugs at all levels. Mainly their economy relies on pushing narcotics and contra bands to the neighboring contries. Forces which have kept Pakistan togather are not visible at all, you see only the actors who act to keep it togather. Just think which neighbor would like to include these folks in their culture. Just think. They have no idea of democracy, these democratic actors of today are convicts of course given pardons for their crimes.

  7. Nader Junaid says:

    Pakistanis are ignorant in self discipline or self control. Liberty for them is like a monkey dressed in fine silk who is bound to rip its own pride. There is no concept of merit or honesty at any level. Self deception is the law of the land. Similarly, Afghanis are masters of contradictions. They can pray five times a day but still make a living by dealing drugs at all levels. Mainly their economy relies on pushing narcotics and contra bands to the neighboring contries. Forces which have kept Pakistan togather are not visible at all, you see only the actors who act to keep it togather. Just think which neighbor would like to include these folks in their culture. Just think. They have no idea of democracy, these democratic actors of today are convicts of course given pardons for their crimes.

  8. Mewa Singh says:

    Nader,

    Your comments reeks of ignoranc, racism, and even incoherence. Your categories of “Pakistanis” and “Afghanis” yield your sophistication of analysis.

  9. […] the Kashmir project is worth the cost, an Azad Kashmir will become a reality. Sikhs and other promoters of democracy and human rights should be paying […]

  10. Phulkari says:

    A recent report on the current state of the Pakistan's Coalition Government: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/arti….

    Some instability was expected within the coalition government and it may be necessary. It's important that another politician (i.e. Asif Ali Zardari) doesn't try to hijack the concept of "democracy" to ultimately become another dictator.

  11. Phulkari says:

    A recent report on the current state of the Pakistan’s Coalition Government: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/25/AR2008082500173.html?hpid=topnews.

    Some instability was expected within the coalition government and it may be necessary. It’s important that another politician (i.e. Asif Ali Zardari) doesn’t try to hijack the concept of “democracy” to ultimately become another dictator.

  12. Sherri says:

    Thank your for share. I hope you will share again.