Double Trouble


Phat Cat
Super Mod
Feb 23, 2009
Country flag
It's a double whammy in India's
neighbourhood: A mutiny in Bangladesh and a judicial coup in Pakistan. Pakistan's supreme court has upheld an
order banning opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif from elected office. Shahbaz is the chief minister of Punjab province while Nawaz may be his country's most popular politician. Meanwhile, shots have rung out in Dhaka as paramilitary units of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) have revolted against their officers, with the top brass feared killed while other officers are being held hostage. The saving grace is that the Bangladeshi army has held loyal and surrounded the mutineers. Both Bangladesh and Pakistan are badly in need of political stability at the moment. These events, therefore, couldn't have come at a worse time.

It's possible that the mutiny in Bangladesh may be contained soon, as prime minister Hasina Wajed's government has offered an amnesty to the rebels and said that their demands, which revolve around pay and perks rather than any large political issue, will be met. In Pakistan, however, confrontations are playing out along the country's main political fault lines which make them cause for greater worry. The opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has long backed the lawyers' movement calling for the reinstatement of judges sacked by former president Pervez Musharraf. But this has been resisted by the ruling Pakistan People's Party, one reason for which may be that President Asif Zardari fears that the sacked judges, if restored, may give harsh rulings in corruption cases against him.

The judgment by the current supreme court sets the cat among the pigeons as it prevents Nawaz from contesting elections and may force Shahbaz, head of a popularly elected government in Punjab, to step down from the chief ministership and resign from the provincial legislature. It's feared that this move will lead to widespread civil disobedience by opposition parties in Pakistan. It could be a rewind to the 1990s which witnessed ferocious infighting between Pakistan's mainstream political parties, which the military as well as Islamists can exploit. But with the Taliban making steady inroads and the Pakistani state ceding sovereignty in many areas, the situation's much worse now.

In Bangladesh, Wajed's landslide victory in recently concluded elections, after an interim phase of army rule, gave rise to hopes of political stability. We hope her government will be able to put a lid on the BDR mutiny and turn the corner on the country's violent past. But India needs to remain on guard while watching closely the developments in its neighbourhood.

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