Leg before Democracy: How Pakistan finds itself in no mans land

Pakistan, the land of my birth, holds the memories of my childhood spent in our family house in the village – a time I consider truly memorable. Born in 1995, the next seven years of my life were dedicated to learning about the nation-state I called home. I was made aware that, if all else failed, the boys in Khaki (the army) were the last line of defence. At the age of 4, General Musharraf took control of Pakistan in a coup d’état, ousting Nawaz Sharif. The narrative presented Sharif as corrupt, while General Musharraf portrayed himself as a righteous leader – preferring to be seen as the liberal and benevolent CEO of Pakistan rather than the chief martial law administrator.

By the time I turned 6, I witnessed tanks rolling down the streets during another standoff between Pakistan and India. Although Pakistan possessed a nuclear option, the spectre of the MAD doctrine loomed. Living in an open area with natural protection from trees and forests, I recall coming home and seeing tanks in the field behind my house. As a child, I was intrigued but lacked an understanding of the events unfolding around me.

Fast forward to 2024, and Pakistan grapples with the same issues as in 2002. Democracy is nowhere to be seen, the rule of law is non-existent, and the Army continues to exert significant influence over Pakistan’s policies. The arrest of Imran Khan illustrates the army’s disinterest in the prosperity of Pakistan as a democracy, showing a lack of concern for the average person, especially with inflation reaching 29% by the end of 2023. This indifference doesn’t bother the top brass, residing in gated communities shielded from the realities faced by the average Pakistani. However, it’s important to note that not every soldier is complicit; like spoiled food, it only takes a small amount to taint the taste.

Journalistic rights are being curtailed, and speaking against the state leads to arrest and torture, followed by a coerced transformation into a supposed Pakistani patriot. Despite being an ally of the United Kingdom with ties dating back to the partition days, Pakistan now faces a stark disconnect in views on democratic principles and basic human rights.

More than 1.6 million individuals in the UK identify as British Pakistanis or Pakistanis living in the UK, as reported in the latest Census of 2021. Many among them are apprehensive about the future of Pakistan, maintaining ties to their homeland.

Similar to a considerable portion of Pakistanis, British Pakistanis generally support Imran Khan, seeing him as an honest powerbroker committed to advancing the country. However, the army and the police have impeded basic human rights, resorting to threats and intimidation to force members of Khan’s Party to resign. The former Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Quereshi, was granted bail by the courts, only to be rearrested and manhandled by the police.

It’s disheartening to witness a nation that shares so much with Britain and aspires to improve relations yet does not align with democratic principles and basic human rights. The junta’s desperation to legitimize its regime is evident in the rejection of Khan’s Party nominations and the removal of its insignia – a cricket bat, coincidentally from Khan’s playing days as a cricketer.

As Liberal Democrats, how would we feel if we lost the Liberty bird from our insignia or if the Tories and Labour lost theirs? This question underscores the gravity of the situation. With elections looming, it appears Khan’s party won’t have a fair chance to stand, paving the way for potential chaos akin to the events of 1971, albeit with the added concern of Pakistan’s current nuclear capabilities.

It is time for us to stand up for what is right. How can the UK, with a seat on the security council, not address Pakistan’s blatant human rights violations? This oversight is a travesty for the people of Pakistan who look to the UK as a beacon of freedom. As Liberal Democrats in the global community, we must prioritize the principles we hold dear and extend support to those fighting for democracy and human rights in Pakistan.

* Mo Waqas is a member in Middlesbrough and the PPC for Middlesbrough and Thornaby East.

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5 Comments

  • It is truly sad to see what is happening in Pakistan, and my sympathy and best wishes go to all those poor people who are just trying to get on with their lives while those in power make it steadily more and more difficult.

    Sadly it is the case in so many countries who became independent in the second half of the 20th Century. The Rule of Law and those Democratic systems set up were either rapidly or steadily undermined in so many places by those who achieved or simply took power and then redesigned to keep the already powerful in power.

  • Thank you Mo for addressing your concerns about Pakistan on LDV. I particularly support your closing remarks,

    ” As Liberal Democrats in the global community, we must prioritize the principles we hold dear and extend support to those fighting for democracy and human rights ….”

    We need to be louder and bolder addressing issues related to Foreign Affairs. We are indeed, ‘Liberal Democrats in the global community.’
    Our liberal, democrat voice needs to be far louder, especially as we head towards the General Election.

  • Cj Williams 11th Jan '24 - 5:39pm

    ” As Liberal Democrats in the global community, we must prioritize the principles we hold dear and extend support to those fighting for democracy and human rights ….”
    Sounds awfully like cultural imperialism.

  • Phillip Bennion 12th Jan '24 - 4:12pm

    I have been most concerned about the detention of Qureshi, whom I got to know quite well when I was on the Foreign Affairs Committee in the European Parliament. He appeared to me to be a principled man of some intellect and sober judgment. We appeared together in a number of conferences as speakers at each other’s invitation. Although Mr Khan followed some populist tendencies, along with his opponents, Mr Qureshi maintained a technocratic, orderly and professional approach to his Foreign Ministry brief. We should indeed be asking questions.

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