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Pakistan's political crisis: Is democracy endangered?

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"The great tragedy here is that democracy ... has become the best scapegoat in the hands of this government," says Zarrar Khuhro, a columnist and editor of a weekly English news magazine. "Every time [government officials] are questioned on legitimate grounds, they claim that democracy is under attack. They have cried wolf so many times that now, when the wolf is actually at the door, no one really cares."

Mr. Khuhro adds that regardless of whether the timing was intentional or not, the decision by the court will be exploited by the protest leader Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, who many analysts here say is backed quietly by Pakistan's military. Mr. Qadri interrupted his speech Tuesday following the court's decision, to congratulate the tens of thousands of people protesting in front of the Parliament, who say they will not leave until the government is dismissed, to cheer the news. 

At this point, Khuhro says, the government should undergo some self-reflection about its poor governance and corruption that have spawned protests and court challenges. 

“Whether our intellectual elite acknowledge it or not, Qadri’s scripted and choreographed speech [on Tuesday] touched on all the points that the masses feel are important. It’s a shame that it takes an undemocratic figurehead to exploit the gaps that the democratic leadership has left in the body politic through its willful negligence,” Khuhro says.

While in the past Pakistan has seen military coups collaborating with the judiciary, legal experts feel that with the restoration of the current Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry – ousted by the military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf in 2007 – the judiciary has become fiercely independent and is not bedfellows with the military anymore. 

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