Five eminent and knowledgeable British and American academics unanimously slammed Pakistan’s sham democracy at a seminar held at London University on Thursday evening. The event, entitled Withered Democracy In Pakistan – The Role Of The Deep State., was organised by The Democracy Forum, whose president is Lord Charles Bruce, Chairman of the Kolkata Scottish Heritage Trust and Patron of the Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies at Edinburgh Napier University.
Kicking off the presentations, Dr Farzana Shaikh, who is of Pakistani origin and an associate fellow at Chatham House, described Pakistan as a ‘bonsai democracy’ or a state restricted by its environment. She added, ‘Nowhere has this been more keenly felt in recent times than in the dismissal of Nawaz Sharif’ by the Pakistani Supreme Court.
Dr Christine Fair, an associate professor at Washington’s Georgetown University, stated Sharif was ousted in a ‘judicial coup’. She did not view the Pakistani judiciary as ‘an independent actor’ and saw ‘a new condominium emerging between the (Pakistani) Army and the Supreme Court’. ‘The Army has to develop new tools to keep pruning the grass of democracy, to prevent it from taking root in Pakistan,’ she commented.
Professor Lawrence Sáez professor of political economy in Asia at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, remarked he had ‘initially considered the ousting of the corrupt Nawaz Sharif as a positive step’, but had since changed his mind ‘since it increased unaccountability in Pakistan’.
Burzine Waghmar, a senior teaching fellow at SOAS, highlighted the complicity of Pakistan’s ‘deep state’ with the ‘pick up and dump routine’ in suppressing the freedom struggle in its Balochistan province.
Concluding the views, Professor Marie Carine-Lall, chair of education and South Asian studies at London University’s Institute of Education, asserted: ‘Democracy does not seem to be the system of choice among the young in Pakistan and there is a tendency towards a pro-order and/or pro-army view, especially among the more educated youth.’ This was based on extensive ground level research carried out by her.
Some rowdy Pakistanis in the audience in a seemingly organised manner attempted to challenge the speakers’ opinions, especially Dr Fair’s. Not to be cowed, she retorted by calling their claims ‘baqwas’, or reason-less speech. She hinted that they had been set up by Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the military adviser at the Pakistani high commission in London.