Post-Long March Analysis (Public/Updated)


PPP-PML(N) rivalry continues. Bitterness remains high. Trust between the two parties has almost completely eroded.

a. Nationally, there are many outstanding issues between the two major parties. The most important of these is the electoral disqualification of the Sharif brothers.

b. More importantly, the battle for Punjab—Pakistan’s largest province—still goes on. There are major unresolved issues between the PPP and PML-N concerning Punjab. These include: future of controversial Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer; and the question of which party will form the next provincial coalition government.  The PPP seeks to create a governing coalition in Punjab with the PML-Q, a troubled party once allied with former President Pervez Musharraf.

c. There have already been actions made by both parties that indicate growing belligerence:

1. On Tuesday, the federal government unilaterally appointed a new chief election in violation of a PPP-PML(N) pact Gilani committed to follow.

—      According to the Charter of Democracy (COD)—signed by Nawaz Sharif and the late Benazir Bhutto in 2006—the prime minister must consult with the opposition leader (which would be the PML-N’s Chaudhry Nisar) in picking CEC nominees. Also on Tuesday, Gilani pledged to work with the PML-N to implement the COD. The dissonance between actions and words will further antagonize the PML-N.

—       The utility of the COD is ignored in Western policymaking communities. The agreement provides a set roadmap for the PPP and PML-N to transition toward stable, democratic rule. It addresses a range of issues, including: civil-military relations, provincial autonomy, governance reform, center-periphery relations, accountability and anti-corruption, and government-opposition relations. If implemented, the COD will reduce the need for third party intervention and increase political stability. However, elements of the pact do pose a challenge to the army’s corporate autonomy.

2. Senior PML-N officials, including Nawaz Sharif and Khawaja Asif, continue to make aggressive statements against Zardari. Sharif spoke of undoing “this decayed, outdated system.” However, they remain positive about Gilani.

Gilani plays important role and will be tested again.

a. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani remains an intermediary between former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Asif Ali Zardari. Gilani remained in contact with the Sharifs during the Long March.

b. Gilani deftly survived the Long March without earning the ire of Sharif or Zardari.

c. However, if the Sharif-Zardari conflict reheats, Gilani might eventually be forced to choose sides or risk being caught in the crossfire.

d. This puts undue pressure on Gilani—seen as lacking intelligence and gumption—to maintain systemic balance. But Gilani is not and will not be without guidance.


a. Zardari is bitten and worn. He wants to regain strength. During the weekend, he refused to budge; he didn’t want to negotiate from a position of weakness. But he, essentially, continued to weaken as the crisis lingered on. The lesson has not dawned on him. He will not go down without a fight. Zardari has demonstrated a lack of ability to engage in political competition without seriously endangering political stability.

b. Predictions of Zardari’s demise are too early.  Many prefer a weakened/neutralized Zardari.

c. PPP needs a fall guy. Taseer could go as soon as governor’s rule is lifted. Rehman Malik is unlikely to go. Plays key role as civilian ‘balancer’ to the ISI for Zardari and others.


a. PML-N has gained morally from this. But tangible political gains were limited. Position remains precarious.

b. Nawaz’s breaking of the police cordon—watched by many on television—is what inspired many Lahoris to fill in the crowd. It kept growing, even on the way toward Gujranwala/Islamabad. Just another example of how new media/television was essential to the march’s success.

c. The Sharif brothers work very well as a team.

d. After failure to achieve political gains during the Long March, the party has adopted an aggressiveness signaling a return to the dangerous zero sum game. Inclination toward compromise remains though.


a. Kayani is now invested in the political process more than ever. No possibility for a smooth retreat, even if there is a will.


a. The lawyers movement was a national movement. It was not just restricted to Punjab. The foot soldiers were the lawyers from bar associations in every major city, including Peshawar and Quetta. Consider the leadership of the movement: Ali Ahmed Kurd (Baloch); Aitzaz Ahsan (Punjabi); Munir Malik (Urdu-speaking, I think); Abdul Latif Afridi (Pashtun); Athar Minallah (Pashtun); Iftikhar Chaudhry (Balochistani).

b. In fact, I would contend that the lawyers movement is one of the most diverse social movements in the country’s history. It, and more broadly, the push for the rule of law, can serve as an integrative force for Pakistan. Equal justice under the law can bring together Baloch and Punjabi, Urdu-speaking and Sindhi, Pashtun and Hindko-speaking.

c. Additionally, the movement brought together persons and groups from a broad ideological spectrum. Uber-liberals Asma Jehangir and Iqbal Haider, and Islamists Liaquat Baloch, and Munawar Hassan were all on the same side. Islamists were singing along with Iqbal Bano’s rendition of Faiz’s anti-establishment poem, Hum Dekhenge.

d. Pakistan’s judicial crisis is essentially over. A handful of issues have not been resolved, but the lawyers movement seems to have backed away from its maximalist positions.


a. Those that described the movement as Punjab-only were the political losers: ANP, JUI-F, MQM, and PPP. The ANP and PPP had, in fact, supported the movement prior to fall 2007/winter 2008.


a. The Islamists are not coming. The center-right, not the hard right, has been bolstered.

b. The rule of law can serve as an integrative force in Pakistan. Pakistan’s smaller, ethnic nationalist parties such as the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) and the Sindh Awami Tehreek viewed the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry very favorably.

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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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