Inconsolable In Islamabad, Ctd

by Dish Staff

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Tim Craig doubts the long-running anti-government protests in Pakistan will achieve their goal of ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who’s actually pretty popular:

The annual Pew Research Center survey of Pakistan finds that 64 percent of residents have a favorable view of Sharif, a solid rating that has essentially remained constant since Sharif’s returned to power last year. Perhaps even more important in Sharif’s bid to hold off the demonstrators, led by former cricket star Imran Khan and firebrand cleric Tahirul Qadri, Pakistanis’ positive views about the economy have risen dramatically over the past year.

About four in ten residents now have confidence in Pakistan’s economy, compared to just 17 percent who felt that way last year. Moreover, Pew notes that 36 percent of residents are optimistic that the economy will improve over the next year, twice as many who felt that way compared to last year.

But as Shuja Nawaz points out, the outcome also depends on whether and how the military decides to get involved:

A senior general, communicating with me directly, summed up the situation succinctly: “This is a small-time riot against a small-time government. The army is neutral and not in a position to confront a crowd, nor intends to do so. The government has gradually conceded on every point as the pressure continued to build up, except on the matter of the PM’s [prime minister’s] resignation. The stand-off now is about the PM holding on. All arguments about democracy or constitution are irrelevant since the sitting government is there in spite of the law and not because of the law.”

If enough generals in the high command share these views, the portents are not good for Sharif.

Mosharraf Zaidi, on the other hand, highly doubts the military would ever pin its hopes on Khan:

[T]he best thing Sharif has going for him is the quality of his competition. Pakistan with Khan at the helm would be a disaster of epic proportions — and that’s even with the country’s extremely high tolerance for shambolic leadership. Khan may be the world’s oldest teenager, with a captive national audience. He thumbs his nose at political niceties and employs an invective that dumbs down the discourse. Like Justin Bieber, Khan focuses on electrifying the urban youth who genuinely believe him to be a messianic solution to the disenchantment they feel about their country. And Khan’s understanding of Pakistan’s problems is probably only slightly more sophisticated than Bieber’s. Khan does not have the policy chops to fix what ails Pakistan: The crux of his efforts during these few weeks has been that he, not Sharif, should be prime minister.