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In a recent speech before parliament, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif claimed that terrorists would no longer be permitted to use Pakistan as a safe haven. The country's generals would second that, although who is -- and is not -- a terrorist ultimately remains subject to their interpretation.
Even though they could be killed, Pakistani journalists have begun to break the long-standing taboo against publicly calling out the military for its misdeeds. The armed forces have fought back, and the more they do, the guiltier they seem.
The high turnout for the recent general election indicates that the Pakistani public is warming up to democracy. But participation is a double-edged sword: by virtue of having had its voice heard, the public now has heightened expectations of government performance. If Sharif fails to deliver, public disaffection could set in rather quickly and powerfully.
As the uproar in Pakistan this week shows, meddling in politics is a specialty of both the country's judiciary and its military. There is a silver lining though. Pakistan's two major parties -- long enemies -- have worked together this time to fend off the threat.
The United States has long had evidence that Pakistan's ISI backs the Haqqani network, but it took an attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul for Obama officials to condemn it publicly. If Islamabad does not clean up its act, Washington needs to follow up rhetoric with military sanctions.
The circumstances of Osama bin Laden's death put into stark relief the need to address the gross power imbalance between Pakistan’s generals and politicians.
Pakistan is unlikely to collapse anytime soon, but the imbalance of power between its civilian and military branches needs to be addressed if it is to become an effective modern state. Washington must stop coddling Pakistan's military and instead work patiently to support the country's civilian authorities.
An annotated Foreign Affairs syllabus on Pakistani politics.