What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The power of the queue and rifle shots that cannot be taken

A mere five days after it happened, AP summed up Monday's Pakistani political deal that was struck partly about reinstating Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry - who was removed from his position by former Prez Musharraf for the reason that he started behaving like somebody actually having something to do with justice - in this way: "the government agreed to (...) reinstate several judges ousted by Musharraf." Highlighting from me, of course.

As you remember, nu prez Zardari decided not to do this earlier, because the CJ might have raised the issue of his past as the legendary Mr. 10 percent. Anyway, an editorial in the Washington Post is now calling on the CJ to show restraint and, again, not to act so much like a CJ really. I see an interesting analogy here with Sudanese Prez Omar al-Bashir's case. Stability is the name of the game, so you should try to get the powerful by legal means only if it doesn't mean you mess up everything... Only, this is not some supranational rule of law that we do not necessarily wish to see function here, but the internal rule of law in Pakistan. There is an element of importance to the advice about softer rules of engagement with the idea of the rule of law, for sure, but there is a touch of absurdity in it as well.

The soap opera of domestic Pakistani politics, where lethal suicide bombings and gun-spraying attacks on randomly selected soft targets in or outside Pakistan are an increasingly often-seen plot device, and where creeping Talibanisation is the constantly heard score, gives the temptation to the observer to go off road. To use harsher words and to conclude that this is all entirely not serious, just, "only," bloody real - for an actually improved analytical approach.

Exceptionally, in the case of this post by KO, I for once found myself going more off road in my judgement. I did not find it so surprising the Army did not stage a coup. And I don't think the lawyers' victory, which was aided by opportunistic political support from the Sharifs' party, will change that much.

Zardari was losing this all the way. He faced increasing and more united domestic political opposition, while he has already upset the Saudis with things like handing them a reduced number of hunting permits, while Beijing even hosted a Jamaat-i-Islami delegation in February, out of concern for Chinese citizens and interests in Pakistan, and with a willingness, demonstrated this way, to support allies of Nawaz Sharif's Saudi-favoured PML-N. (There you just had two of Pakistan's usually most important allies mentioned.)

In fact, still there is an ongoing struggle in which Zardari's cards are just not looking so good. Does it mean something big if he, Mr. 10 percent, eventually loses out entirely, in terms of a change for the better to Pakistan's political economy? Or will those asking favours for favours just line up at somebody else's desk? Sceptically, one should be rather conscious of the inertia of structures of corruption (i.e. partly informal and non-meritocratic resource distribution). One cannot just become Mr. Democracy or Mr. No 10 percent! The people in the queue might get mad at you, if you step in front of them and tell them there's no point in queuing.

(Meanwhile, you hear that score in the back?)

So what to do, what to do? As Joshua Foust notes at Registan, drone strikes in Quetta are not a smart solution to Pakistan's ineffectual governance structures, the fact, that these structures are shielded by nukes and a number of unidentified crazies who might jump out from the shadows if an external party tries something smarter, notwithstanding.

One shot from a rifle will always be smarter than a drone strike, from a counterinsurgency point of view, if carefully aimed. The problem is it cannot really be taken.

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