World Affairs Council Discusses “Inside Musharraf’s Pakistan”
By Jonathan Hayden

 


Left to right: Dr. Akbar Ahmed, Shahid Javed Burki, Dr. Adil Najam and Frederic Grare

Washington, DC: Wednesday evening saw an informative panel discussion entitled “Inside Musharraf’s Pakistan: Assessing Reform Efforts” at The Ronal Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC. Panelists included Shahid Javed Burki, Frederic Grare and Dr. Adil Najam. The session was chaired by Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, former Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK.
Matt Larkin, Director of Public Programs at the World Affairs Council of Washington, DC, introduced Ambassador Ahmed by quoting the BBC who described him as “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam”. Ahmed welcomed the distinguished audience, which included Brigadier Khawar Hanif of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, scholars, diplomats and many local Pakistanis.
Ahmed stressed the importance of Pakistan in his opening remarks. “Its large population, and its geopolitical position make it extremely important and worthy of attention and I am grateful to the World Affairs Council for organizing this event”, said Ahmed. He went on, “Pakistan is a key ally for the US in the War on Terrorism. Let us not forget that without the cooperation of Pakistan, the US could not hope to contain the eastern front in this War on Terrorism”. Ahmed emphasized the importance of the Quaid –i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his views on women’s rights, minority rights and the modern democratic Muslim state, and the significance of these ideals impacting today’s Pakistan.
In his opening remarks, Mr Burki, former Finance Minister of Pakistan and VP of The World Bank, gave an optimistic view of the current economic situation in Pakistan. He explained the successes and failures of the Pakistani economy, giving examples of what can be done to improve the conditions, like outsourcing and redistribution of the wealth that has accumulated in the pockets of a very few. “Outsourcing will bring skills that will get Pakistan more involved in the global economic system”. “The county’s future lies in its economy”, said Mr. Burki.
Mr. Grare was not as optimistic about the state of Pakistan, “The growth of the country has cost Pakistan democracy”. Mr. Grare, a Visiting Scholar at The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was critical of President Musharraf’s regime and its failure to protect democracy, citing the 2002 election where “intimidation” and “discrimination” were used to “make a mockery of the 1973 constitution”. “The 2005 local elections were no different”, where ballot stuffing and intimidation were commonplace and rival candidates were jailed during the election. He went on to declare that the regime would say that ‘yes, the election was rigged, but the result exceeded expectations’, so the regime got “some breathing room”.
Dr. Najam, professor at the prestigious Fletcher School of Law and Democracy at Tufts University, offered an insightful analysis into the public perception of the situation inside Pakistan and Musharraf’s troubles in winning over the masses. “Pakistani’s are coming around to democracy. For the first time in 10 years, the public is calling for democracy”, said Najam. He explained that Pakistanis no longer has the same goals as it did in 2001, when there was “a convergence of interests in Pakistan and the US.” “This convergence”, Najam said, “is no longer true. The [Pakistani] people’s desire for democracy and the US desire for stability for the short-term goals of the global War on Terror” [are no longer compatible].
Following the remarks by each panelist, a question and answer session allowed the audience to direct specific questions towards each panelist. The lively discussion was co-sponsored by Rising Leaders. All in all, it was an informative session that is significant, given Pakistan’s importance as an ally in the War on Terrorism and whose stability holds the region together.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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