A Letter to an Editor

Response to “Pakistan in Turmoil,” March 15, 2009, by Barbara Crossette in The Nation

Ms. Crossette’s article is strong on explaining political rivalries, but misses an opportunity to reveal the new gains of Pakistani civil society.

The phrase “Long March” should have appeared somewhere in the article. Unfortunately, it didn’t. As a result, The Nation’s readers missed out on a chance to learn more about the massive protest movement bearing this name.

What the Long March represents for Pakistanis is a chance to restore an independent judiciary. This is something that two successive US-backed heads of state have opposed. Both former dictator Musharraf and President Zardari did not want an independent Pakistani Supreme Court. The nation’s civil society begged to differ.

It is true that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif joined forces with the civil society groups backing the Long March. But in the Western press, coverage has almost solely focused on the rivalry between Zardari and Sharif–with little attention given to the lawyersl movement or other activist groups that want an accountable government.

It is this question of government accountability that marks a real victory for Pakistani civil society organizations. Yes, the U.S government and Western nations want the focus to remain on the Taliban. But many Pakistanis want a government that is less corrupt and more responsive to their needs. And US support for Musharraf and Zardari has come at the expense of these goals.

The lawyers movement and their Long March clearly have much more work to do. But in forcing Zardari to reinstate the chief justice deposed by Musharraf, they have scored a major victory. We shouldn’t lose sight of this as we keep political score in the back-and-forth of Pakistani politics.

Sanjeev Bery
San Francisco, CA

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