Still Standing in Pakistan

The Protests, the Military, and What Comes Next

An anti-government protester wears a helmet with pictures of Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-opposition politician, in Islamabad, September 2, 2014. Akhtar Soomro / Courtesy Reuters

Pakistan has once again plunged itself into domestic chaos. Since early this summer, two popular personalities -- Imran Khan, the former cricketer and Lothario turned conservative politician, and Tahir ul-Qadri, a Canadian-Pakistani activist Sufi cleric -- have whipped their bases into a frenzy. Their followers, armed with clubs and other weapons, have occupied a section of the capital and seized government buildings. Khan and Qadri claim that the movements are peaceful sit-ins; they are anything but. And they are after nothing less than the resignation of the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.

These events no doubt dismay analysts who happily proclaimed the return of democracy in Pakistan and the death knell of military interference when, in May 2013 Sharif’s party secured a surprising majority of seats in the parliament in the general elections and peacefully took office. Pakistan, it seemed, was on the path to normalcy. So what went wrong? As

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