Musharrafs loss of middle class support, the greatest set back of his rule: NYT

November 26th, 2007 - 2:51 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Nov 26 (ANI): Pakistan President General Pervez Musharrafs loss of support within the ranks of the ordinary middle class, is one of the great setbacks of his rule, since he seized power in 1999, says the New York Times (NYT).
“As he fights to hold onto power, Musharraf finds himself opposed by the expanded middle class that is among his greatest achievements, and using his emergency powers to rein in another major advance he set in motion, a vibrant, independent news media,” the NYT states.
The report lists the economic progress made under the Musharraf regime, and how it has filled Pakistans white-collar office workers, stockbrokers and small-business operators with a belief that their country can be more than the “backward fief of a few generals”.
While increasingly dissatisfied, their ranks remain too thin to exert much influence over Pakistans politics. Nonetheless, their emergence could prove decisive, particularly if growing anger translates into greater political activism and broader alliances, it further says.
“The emerging urban middle class is very important to Pakistans future,” according to Teresita Schaffer of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
“But by themselves, they are not numerous enough to swing elections or spearhead a major social movement,” she adds.
A World Bank economist says that five per cent of the countrys 160 million people, or roughly 8 million Pakistanis, appear to have moved from living in poverty to being part of the lower middle class between 2001 and 2004.
While they have no precise figures, Pakistani political scientists say that the upper and middle classes may now include 10 to 20 per cent of the population.
But, they caution, the recent economic growth has been uneven and concentrated in the banking, cell-phone and construction industries while the agriculture and textile sectors have remained stagnant.
Lagging behind has been the roughly 65 per cent of the population that lives in rural Pakistan and that has long been where politics is played, the report says.
For decades, Pakistans moderate elite has been dismissed as “the chattering classes,” who have shied away from the political arena and rarely voted, it adds.
The report filed by David Rhode, notes that feudal landlords who could deliver huge blocks of votes from poor tenant farmers have dominated the political system of the country.
The key to winning elections has been striking the right alliances and spreading graft, not developing a coherent political platform or putting in place broadly beneficial social policies, Rhode writes.
Yet, the country is slowly changing, in ways that have left a growing number arguing that Pakistan is more prepared than ever for democratic rule.
Rhode writes that a perception is growing that the US will betray middle-class Pakistanis and continue backing an unpopular military ruler who refuses to give up power.
Many said they believed that Musharraf had tried to contain but not eliminate a dangerous rise in militancy in the country because it allowed him to garner billions in US military aid for Pakistans army, the report concludes. (ANI)

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