Some students who gathered in J Street Tuesday watched history unfold during CNN’s coverage of the fourth military coup of Pakistani independence in 50 years.
CNN replayed images of armed members of the Pakistani military, under military chief General Perviaz Musharraf, entering a building and taking custody of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Wednesday.
I think sometimes we feel really disconnected from (world) events, junior Anjan Choudhury, who has family in India, said. When I see it on CNN at J Street it really hits home.
The Pakistani military declared a state of emergency, suspending the constitution and dissolving parliament. Musharraf, who declared himself the country’s leader, said the coup was the last resort to save Pakistan from political and economic collapse imminent after Sharif’s efforts to politicize and destabilize the army, according to The Washington Post.
Atif Qarni, a member of the Pakistani Students’ Association, said the coup was caused by several factors, including tension between Sharif and Musharraf. This tension arose in part because of Sharif’s order to withdraw from the Kashmir region after a U.S. brokered deal and anti-military comments Sharif made to President Clinton last July, Qarni said.
Several Pakistani students said they feel Western media has maligned what some westerners describe as the fall of democracy in Pakistan.
From a U.S. standpoint it could be a really bad thing, (but) the people were celebrating when it happened, Mazna Hussain, secretary of the Pakistani Students’ Association, said. (They feel that) even if it doesn’t get better it won’t get worse.
Arsalan Siddiqi, a GW student from Pakistan, said many Pakistani students reacted with sighs of relief.
People want accountability, Siddiqi said.
Members of the PSA described the nation as a feudal society with major corruption among the politicians, in which elections are rigged and key politicians take control of foreign economic aid.
Politicians are rich but the country is poor, PSA member Abid Mizra said.
Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities exacerbate an already unstable relationship with India. The coup occurred on the heels of the U.S. Senate’s rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
It is becoming another hot zone in the world, Chodhury said. A hot zone where you have some of the most major weapons of mass destruction.
This kind of political instability in a nuclear power is frightening, but easily overblown, International Affairs Society President Colin Van Ostern said. The international community needs to make it clear to the military leadership in Pakistan that only through democratic elections can they gain legitimacy.
Some Pakistani students said they feel that democracy is impossible until the basic conditions in Pakistan are improved.
The West should not take democracy to countries where democracy is not viable because the infrastructure is missing, Choudhury said. There’s no point in having a democracy in a place where people don’t understand democracy.
Students said they are waiting to see what sort of government the military now in power is going to establish.
We’re praying for good things for Pakistan, Cheema said.