On Nov. 27, after weeks of unrest in and around Islamabad, Pakistan’s government signed an agreement with Islamist protesters giving in to their demands for the resignation of the country’s embattled law minister, Zahid Hamid. The government’s concession to the protesters, and the need for the military leadership to mediate the affair, has raised serious questions about the state of Pakistan’s democracy and the power of Islamist groups. In an email interview, Shehzad Qazi, a nonresident fellow at the Center for Global Policy, explains what was driving the turmoil and what the outcome says about Pakistan’s struggling political system.
WPR: What has been driving the recent protests by Islamists in Pakistan against the government?
Shehzad Qazi: These protests began in the aftermath of the passing of an election law on Oct. 2, which allows politicians disqualified from holding office to head a political party. Initially, the new bill sparked controversy because it paved the way for ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to remain the head of his political party, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz or PML-N, despite being disqualified from the National Assembly by the Supreme Court in August because of corruption allegations.