One point I’ve heard time and again repeated by Pakistan analysts is that the popularity of Islamist movements in Pakistan is often wildly overestimated by casual western observers. In particular, people seem to be falling prey to an inability to appreciate scale. Pakistan has 161 million people, so the ability of Islamist parties to organize large demonstrations doesn’t necessarily indicate that they’ve got a widely popular mass movement on the verge of taking control of the country. When election day comes, they’re rarely gotten anything more than fringe levels of support.
That said, five years ago they did get their best result ever. But Jonathan Landay reports for McClatchy that much of that support has slipped away, and they’re almost certain to do worse this time around. Fear of an radical takeover, in short, isn’t a good reason to welcome lack of democracy in Pakistan.