Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | South Asian Perspectives
March 27 , 2009  |    Washington, DC  ·  Moscow  ·  Beijing  ·  Beirut  ·  Brussels

Editor's Note:

The Obama administration announced its new Afghanistan policy today, ahead of the NATO summit April 3 and 4. New financial assistance for Pakistan is a major component of the Administration's strategy. In this issue, we examine the effects of the protests that led to Chief Justice Chaudhry’s restoration and the outlook for political stability in Pakistan. The next issue of South Asian Perspectives will examine the regional implications of Obama’s policy and its reception across South Asia.

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Protests, Celebration and Uncertainty in Pakistan

On March 16 Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani reinstated Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, dismissed by Pervez Musharraf in 2007, conceding to the main demand of the lawyers' movement and opposition supporters who staged massive anti-government protests despite a government crackdown. PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif welcomed the decision and called off the “long march” en route to Islamabad to stage a sit-in. The announcement diverted a showdown, but the crisis revealed President Asif Ali Zardari's weak political position.

Government Cannot Wish Opposition Away

“Every blow of the government against the long march over the last week has in fact been a blow to the government's credibility,” says a Dawn editorial; violence by an elected government against its population only undermines the government.

Acting Tough Before Parleys

The protesters made a significant statement which the government cannot ignore, argues the Daily Times, and Zardari’s response has set the stage for much-needed reconciliation between the ruling Pakistan People’s Party and the PML-N.

Clinton Warned Pakistan of Aid Cut if No Deal

Dawn reports that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Zardari and Sharif that Congress would have cut off U.S. aid to Pakistan if the crisis deteriorated, but State Department spokesman Robert Wood downplayed the U.S. role in the talks.

Government to Request Detailed Verdict in Sharif's Case

The government requested a review of the February 2009 court verdict that barred Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif from holding public office. The verdict angered Sharif supporters and triggered widespread protests. The review could be a key step toward PPP—PML-N reconciliation, says the Daily Times .

Another Day, Another Deal

Dawn reports that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Zardari and Sharif that Congress would have cut off U.S. aid to Pakistan if the crisis deteriorated, but State Department spokesman Robert Wood downplayed the U.S. role in the talks.

Sharif Wins

The Times of India welcomes the peaceful resolution of the current standoff, but calls for a return to Pakistan 's 1973 constitution, before Zia ul-Haq and other military rulers revised it to increase the president's powers. Reducing executive power may be the key to long-term stability in Pakistan.

Sri Lankan Cricket Team Attacked in Pakistan

On March 3 gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team to the Lahore stadium; six policemen and a driver were killed. Pakistani security services rounded up approximately sixty suspects, but have yet to identify the organization behind the attack. Immediate suspicion focused on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group behind the Mumbai attacks, the Jaish-e-Mohammed, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban.

One More Blow

The Pakistani army created an “Islamist Frankenstein” that it cannot control, says a Business Standard editorial.

Help Pakistan in its Hour of Need

Rather than isolating Pakistan and condemning it as a failed state, South Asian nations must recognize that Pakistan is a victim of terrorism too, and deserves help in its hour of need, argues Gamini Weerakoon.

The Day Cricket Died in Pakistan

The Lahore attacks prove yet again that Pakistan 's chief problem is domestic and not with India, writes S. Nihal Singh.

It Isn't About Cricket

Regardless of which jihadi group attacked the Sri Lankan team, they all share the same goal: to destroy democracy in South Asia. All South Asian governments must cooperate to defeat this common enemy, argues Rajinder Puri.

Elections in India

The National Election Commission announced March 2 that elections for India 's 15 Lok Sabha will take place between April 16 and May 13, with all results to be announced May 16.

A Third Front? No, An Open Door

Nine regional and Communist parties declared their intention to defeat the ruling Congress party and the main opposition BJP in May. The parties did not make a formal alliance, but pledged to form a “non-Congress, non-BJP, secular” government.

Excellent with the U.S., Not so with the Rest

K.P. Nayar argues that the next Indian government will inherit a substantial crisis in foreign policy. The Indo-U.S. relationship built by Manmohan Singh was achieved at great cost to India 's relationships with Russia and China, which must be re-built.

Coalitions Are Bad for the Economy

A Business Standard editorial notes that India is headed for another coalition government, which is bad news for the economy. In the past, each coalition partner has been offered control of a sector of the economy in return for supporting the government—not a good way to attract investment.

Sri Lanka After the War

Sri Lanka's Choices: Positive Accomodation or Partion?

Sri Lanka faces a stark choice: a power-sharing agreement with the Tamil minority whose demands will not go away with the LTTE's defeat, or partition. A.R.M. Imtiyaz argues that partition could provide much-needed stability and security.

Major Crisis Ahead, Economists Warn

As declining exports and civil war weaken the currency and deplete the country's stock of foreign reserves, Sri Lanka announced that it is negotiating a $1.9 billion bailout package with the IMF. This represents a change in the official position of a government reluctant to acknowledge the economic effects of its war against the LTTE, reports the Sunday Times.

Mutiny in Bangladesh

A mutiny by soldiers in the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), a border paramilitary force, led to the massacre of 74 people, mostly senior army officers. The government opened an investigation into cause of the mutiny, and speculation has ranged from a dispute over pay to an attempt to overthrow the government.

Minister's Premature Comments Could Prove Costly

A New Age editorial rebukes commerce minister Faruk Khan for claiming—without proof—that the mutiny was linked to Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a banned jihadist organization. It urges the government to show restraint until the investigation into the mutiny is complete.


What's Cooking in Delhi?

Nepal 's last monarch, King Gyanendra, and ex-prime minister, Girija Prasad Koirala, met with Indian leaders from across the political spectrum while in India on personal visits. Nepalnews speculates that given the history of Indian involvement in Nepalese politics, these visits could be part of a campaign to strengthen opposition to the ruling Maoist regime.


Report: Reforming the Intelligence Agencies in Pakistan's Transitional Democracy, March 2009

Pakistan 's fragile government must reform the country's intelligence agencies to counter their influence on civil society and politics. With patience, resolve, and assistance from the international community, Pakistan 's government can successfully reassert civilian control over the intelligence community.

Afghanistan Resources:

Video: Obama's Afghanistan Policy: Q&A with Gilles Dorronsoro, March 2009

The Taliban is unlikely to negotiate just at the moment they think their strategy against coalition forces is succeeding. Rather than attempting to identify a “moderate Taliban” and persuade them to negotiate, the United States must strengthen the Afghan state.

Event: Experts Discuss Focus and Exit February 3, 2009

Gilles Dorronsoro, Ashley J. Tellis, and General David W. Barno, who commanded international forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, discuss NATO strategy in Afghanistan.

Op-ed: Going South in Afghanistan, February 9, 2009

Concentrating troops in the south where the Taliban are already dominant is risky and does not lay the necessary groundwork for the “Afghanization” of the war. If the United States wishes to empower its Afghan partners, it must secure the strategic area around Kabul and the big cities, where civil institutions can be revived.

Brief: Stabilizing Afghanistan: Threats and Challenges October 2008

An Iraq-style troop surge ignores the immediate need for a comprehensive political strategy to fix Afghanistan's fragile security structure, dysfunctional system of government, and unstable borders.

About Us

Produced fortnightly, South Asia Perspectives provides views and opinions from leading South Asian media and policy circles. Visit the Carnegie South Asia website for further information and resources. We welcome comments and suggestions. Please write to the Editor at

Editor: Ashesh Prasann, Junior Fellow, South Asia Program.
Assistant Editor: Mary Kate Aylaward, Communications.

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