The tide seems to be receding. The protests are not spreading beyond the lawyers and the students. The opposition parties have had no luck mobilizing. Benazir Bhutto’s me-first strategy is d.o.a. That robust media, Aaj TV, Geo TV, ARY TV remain inaccessible to the majority of the population. The Supreme Court justices are in house arrest. The majority of the opposition is under strict duress. The General has made a series of announcements while jiggling his Google Calendar and seems to be announcing something for January. Enough, in any case, to placate the White House.
Is it over? This nascent movement for democracy and freedom.
It is, if you conceive of it as an instant reaction to an authoritarian step – a flash of anger and frustration that is slowly simmering back down. It is, if you believe that the lawyers and the students represent rather insulated factions of the overall society who do not effect life in a significant enough manner for “ordinary Pakistanis”. There is a lot of circumstantial evidence that Musharraf’s crackdown on “information” is working. He has sequestered most of the trouble makers. He has cut off any public discussion. He is threatening to try civilians in military tribunals. And the only possible alternatives look like Benazir Bhutto. These are indeed massive odds.
Yet, I do not believe that these are KwiK E Protests that will just go away. Think back to the amazing crowds – hundreds of thousands – that mobilized for the Chief Justice. Think also of those reports about the unpopularity of Musharraf, the fall from grace of the Pakistan Army, the growing discontent about the state of affairs in Pakistan. None of that has changed. None of those miseries have gone away. The Baluchistan crisis is now the Swat and Baluchistan crisis. The Islamists have not disappeared.