Sunday, November 25, 2007

The New Pakistani Middle Class - New York Times

There is a very interesting article by David Rohde in the New York Times today titled "Pakistani Middle Class, Beneficiary of Musharraf, Begins to Question Rule " (registration required) about the changing dynamics of the Pakistani political scene.

Some excerpts:

As he fights to hold on to power, General Musharraf finds himself opposed by the expanded middle class that is among his greatest achievements, and using his emergency powers to rein in another major advance he set in motion, a vibrant, independent news media.

Since he took power, Pakistan’s gross domestic product has doubled. The number of cellphones has soared to 50 million, from 600,000 six years ago. The privatization of banks has led to a huge increase in the sales of cars, motorcycles and, perhaps most important, television sets. Globalization has taken hold, as it has in other countries.

That spreading economic success — and exposure to the outside world — has filled Pakistan’s white collar office workers, stockbrokers and small-business operators with a belief that their country can be more than the backward fief of a few generals, many said in interviews.
For decades, Pakistan’s moderate elite has been dismissed as “the chattering classes,” who have shied away from the political arena and rarely voted.

Instead the political system has been dominated by feudal landlords who could deliver huge blocks of votes from poor tenant farmers. The key to winning elections was striking the right alliances and spreading graft, not developing a coherent political platform or putting in place broadly beneficial social policies.

Yet the country is slowly changing, in ways that have left a growing number arguing that Pakistan is more prepared than ever for democratic rule.
This spring, the middle class vigorously supported a successful campaign by the country’s lawyers to reverse an attempt by General Musharraf to dismiss the country’s chief justice.

For now, greater mobilization is hobbled by a deep distrust of their political leaders and the United States. A perception is growing that the United States will betray middle-class Pakistanis — Washington’s greatest long-term ally in the fight against terrorism — and continue backing an unpopular military ruler who refuses to give up power.

Many said they believed that General Musharraf had tried to contain — but not eliminate — a dangerous rise in militancy in the country because it allowed him to garner billions in American military aid for Pakistan’s army.

No comments: