Brian Katulis is a man worth listening to and he says that when assessing Pakistan’s upcoming elections, we should watch what happens with the judiciary:
As Americans know all too well from their own 2000 presidential elections, courts can often play a decisive role in hotly contested elections. And as President Musharraf has probably learned from events in Egypt last year, reining in independent-minded judges is a key ingredient for holding back real democratic progress. A month before the elections, Pakistan’s Election Commission – a key body that overseas and manages the elections usually filled by judges – was incomplete because of the shortage of judges that has resulted from the actions taken last month. Prominent lawyers and judges remain under arrest.
I would say, though, that worrying too much about the nature of Pakistani election procedures is unlikely to get us anywhere in the long run. What’s needed is to articulate what, exactly, we think our main interests are in Pakistan and what we’re prepared to do to see them advanced. With that in place, we should be prepared to work with whatever Pakistani leadership emerges or may emerge in the future. A policy based around trying to identify the “good guys” and then back them hasn’t served us especially well in Pakistan or anyplace else.