Pakistan Spring Emerging From Winter of Discontent

Vali Nasr at Bloomberg:

I._wX_p5OtlIOne new twist that should be particularly gratifying to the U.S. is the Pakistani public’s unexpected turn against the military. Popular anger at the U.S. for swooping into the country to kill bin Laden was matched by outrage that the military was caught snoozing by U.S. commandos. Pakistanis asked: Why do we need such an expensive military if it can’t even protect the country’s borders and doesn’t know that the world’s most wanted man is hiding in a garrison town?

If that weren’t enough, three weeks later, extremists attacked the naval base in Karachi, which houses nuclear warheads. They destroyed a helicopter and two advanced P-3C Orion patrol aircraft. Pakistani special forces lost 10 men and had to fight for 16 hours to end the siege.

More embarrassments followed. Impassioned appeals to the Supreme Court to find President Asif Ali Zardari a traitor backfired on the army and intelligence chiefs when the credibility of their witness, who had claimed that Zardari was colluding with the U.S. against the military, dissolved amid the man’s ever-changing story and his cameo in a mud-wrestling video. Next, the Supreme Court opened hearings in a case alleging that the military bought votes in the 1990 election. The televised spectacle of generals hauled to court to answer judges has mesmerized Pakistanis.

The humbling of the military is good news for democracy in Pakistan. National elections may take place as early as October and must occur by February. With the military restrained, there is hope that voting will be free and fair, and that the outcome may further strengthen civilian rule.

More here.