World Affairs Council
Discusses “Inside Musharraf’s Pakistan”
By Jonathan Hayden
to right: Dr. Akbar Ahmed, Shahid Javed Burki, Dr. Adil
Najam and Frederic Grare
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.