Different Flavors of Public Protest in India and Pakistan

india-pakistanIndians and Pakistanis are discussing the leadership crisis in their respective countries, but for different reasons and with different implications. India’s inability to wield influence on the world stage is being blamed on the lack of good leadership. In Pakistan, people feel that the political leaders have failed to instill confidence and provide direction when the country is consumed by the threat of terrorism. Are these leadership demands signs of widening and maturing democracy in the two countries? Or are the Indians and Pakistanis wanting to re-live the hope and optimism characterizing the era of Nehru and Jinnah? Whatever may be the rationale, the demand for better leadership is showing different traits of the public in India and Pakistan.

Dawn Columnist, Cyril Almedia wrote a timely article, “Where are you, our leaders”, on the October 23, 2009. The opening lines of his column are illustrative of what many Pakistanis are thinking:

As the country burns, parents agonize over whether to send their children to school or not, offices of businesses local and foreign ramp up their security measures, the average citizen thinks twice before venturing into crowded locales or government buildings, a simple question for our leaders: where are you? Where are you, President Zardari? Where are you, Prime Minister Gilani? Where are you, Nawaz Sharif?

While making an eloquent plea to the Pakistani leadership for reassuring the common people, Cyril adds, “politics existed yesterday and it will exist tomorrow. Right now the people are scared and they need their leaders to show some leadership.”

The recent post at CHUP, titled “An Era of Citizen Resolve” highlights how the scores of Pakistanis are ready to confront and fight terrorists, a challenge evaded by the country’s leadership. Pakistani students from Universities across the country launched a group named Jaag Meeray Talib-e-Ilm requesting the Government to reopen universities and provide adequte security.

Across the disputed border in India, Hindustan Times-CNN IBN Survey shows that 41% of the population believes that lack of leadership is holding back India from becoming a world power. The survey raised a question, which appeared strange to me: “Has the moral leadership that Nehru and Gandhi stood for ended in India? Are there no such towering figures to give India the much-needed identity?” I am not sure how many Indians would be happy if Nehru and Gandhi held the reigns of power in today’s India.

It is widely believed that despite impressive rates of economic growth, Indian leadership has not been able to tackle the challenges of criminalization of politics, lack of infrastructure and high rates of illiteracy. The inability of the leadership to tackle basic issues of governance tends to pull-back India on the world stage.

Indians and Pakistanis share a common sentiment in their distinct demands: a desire for responsive, responsible and dynamic leadership. But this is where the similarity ends. The demands made by the people of the two countries on their respective leaderships are startlingly different: for Pakistanis it’s an issue of national survival while the Indians desire national assertiveness on the world stage. Moreover, the case for stronger leadership in Pakistan is not the topic of television debates like in India; it is a demand voiced at street protests and every-day conversations. Recent public demonstrations in India are usually parochial; the demands affect only a specific social, cultural or economic group. National demands, on issues that affect the entire country have been more common in Pakistan than in India during the past decade.

Whether its the airline pilots going on strike or threat of protests by IIT faculty; whether its farmers raising demands against SEZ or people of Tamil Nadu criticizing the Center’s Sri Lanka policy, only local concerns tend to galvanize Indians. Have we ever witnessed protests aganist judicial corruption or illiteracy across the nation? From the long march earlier this year favor in support of deposed CJ Chaudhry to the less noticed public protest against the Government’s Taliban policy, the people of Pakistan have joined hand across regional and sectarian divisions to exert pressure on their political leaders.

India has not witnessed widespread protests on a major national issue in recent years. Many would argue that the democratic system allows Indians other avenues to voice their concerns. The fact however remains that existence of ‘other democratic avenues’ did not prevent Indians from participating in scores of protests relating to parochial demands. India can pride itself with vibrant structural democracy but Pakistan is showing impressive signs of popular involvement despite its poor record at institutional democracy. India and Indians need to move beyond their criticism of Pakistani democracy to support and appreciation of Pakistani people showcasing their democratic resilience.



, , , , , ,



13 responses to “Different Flavors of Public Protest in India and Pakistan”

  1. edsley Avatar

    i understand the tone of anguish in your article but like many articles on the web on this matter lack a structure and creative solution for of the problem.

    its easy to say we have a problem. but to identify the reason and reason the solution is what is the need. India's leadership is more that decisive in many things.

    We came within seconds of declaring a war on Pakistan after the mumbai crisis. And the country would have stood behind Mr Singh if he had decided to! But its the reasoning based on the facts available to his team and the army that they decided to pull out of a even otherwise populist move.

    The fact that we look for iconic leaders is another problem India faces, don't you think bro! As long as things are done right why do you want a Nehru. Most people who say we want Nehru, don't even know what Nehru did! (Mind you no offense here, he did a lot) But people just follow the common jargon and cry for lack of leadership.

    Democracy is about better citizens at all levels! Not a great leadership at the center!

  2. Aamir Mughal Avatar

    Just a question from the Guards above [with an attitude]. where was this attitude during the Fall of Dhaka and during the Gujarat Anti Muslim Riots in India. Enough of this jingoism, vain exercise twice a day everyday when half of the population in both the countries below poverty line.

  3. Unaiza Fatima Avatar
    Unaiza Fatima

    Aamir Mughal:

    Isn't the comment (reflecting a teenage mentality) of yours putting a serious question mark upon your exuberant claim of being a "Research Analyst/Former Intelligence Officer"?

  4. farrah shah Avatar
    farrah shah

    Agree India has a strong government in the centre.

    There is prosperity and oppertunity as well.

    But for how many?

    Do people live without fear?

    Does state provides protection and safety ,oppertunity for everyone?

    Meeting and speaking to Indian people I do not find they are different from me in any way .

    The difference which one feels while speaking to a European or even people from Poland or Russia.

    It is the making of India(sub-continent)the roots ,the might of the powerful,rich getting richer,flashy cars ,servants ,big buildings and than the struggle of the people who prespire from head to toe in the bus……..

    We have come a long way though ,it is the nostalgia with the past……….we will always look towards past ….

    This is something very strange in people of Asia.

    The real change is comming and slow…..that change is from the women not from Government……

    A woman is treated in the same way in a rape case in India as in Pakistan.

    But with the economic challenges ,women is trying to step out of the house…it is than that the conventional society will change…..

    Bloody hell……how many years would it take for Asian men to learn to put their socks in the shoes after taking off or in the laundry basket…….

    when would they realise there is a place to hang the clothes,

    when would they think that they can clear the table or do the dishes…..

    it is not a crime to cook ,to take care of a wife and just to be sweet and polite in the house(talking about majority instead of building a fascade around themselves)

    I like th enew comedy trend in Indian films…..where a Macho man like Akshay or Sanjay shows his emotions,cries,falls in love and accept mistakes…..

    there is a lighter side to life and there is a human inside us,Asian men need to get in touch with that …….

    Liberation of Asian soul is very far though we achieve Narvana quickly

  5. farrah shah Avatar
    farrah shah

    Oh I forgot to write about Pakistan…..In Pakistan people have finally realised they have an independant state and they are responsible for it.

    Finally people have accepted it is not the birth right of few corrupts to rule us instead it is the common man who has a say in the government as well.

    After Jinnah and Iqbal Pakistan fell into the hands of people who manipulated Islam to control people but finally people are accepting they have to live before they die.

    It is the era of remaking and re-birth of Pakistan.

    After the present termoil Pakistan will be a whole different place.

    The prospective of Pakistan is different because we do not have mixed community like many large faiths intermingling.

    So in Pakistan we are not trying to protect religion ,we do not feel threatened.

    Strangely in Britain I have found people turn more conservative because they think they will loose their identity ,so they become over protective regarding children upbringing etc……something which we do not know in Pakistan.

  6. MB Avatar


    " Enough of this jingoism, vain exercise twice a day everyday when half of the population in both the countries below poverty line"

    I not only agree to you but dare to call it BULLSHIT

    I mean what the f*** sense one see in this crap?

    If it had been a routine stuff fine but the establishment in PAK and INDIA keep the temperature high to ensure the MILITARY bills are paid and the awaam sink deep in poverty.

    The feudal setup (as i have explained here http://karachi.metblogs.com/2009/10/03/the-feudal… makes sure the fake patriotic temperature stays high therefore justification and turning a blind eye towards their ill-work.

    as for a question " where are you? Where are you, President Zardari? Where are you, Prime Minister Gilani? Where are you, Nawaz Sharif? "

    WHY the hell anyone is calling these thieves for help, by the way?

    Are we nuts?

    We are better of these idiots, think something about getting rid of this dirt (MMA,MQM,PPP,PMLabcxyz,ANP)

  7. Aamir Mughal Avatar

    twice a day everyday when half of the population in both the countries below poverty line” I not only agree to you but dare to call it BULLSHIT – PAK and INDIA keep the temperature high to ensure the MILITARY bills are paid and the awaam sink deep in poverty. [MB]


    Dear Sir,

    Just a glimpse:

    Human development, poverty, health & nutrition situation in India http://www.icmr.nic.in/ijmr/2008/august/0816.pdf

    Measuring the Incidence of Poverty in Pakistan Fowad Murtaza . .www.networkideas.org/ideasact/Jun07/Beijing…/Fowad_Murtaza.ppt

  8. Raza M.Qureshi Avatar

    Can we finish this hatred attitude with each other ? It is in the best interest of these countries to bring love & peace for their public and don't develope misunderstanding with each other.

  9. Aamir Mughal Avatar

    I agree with Raza Sahab.

  10. Aamir Mughal Avatar

    bills are paid and the awaam sink deep in poverty. [MB]


    Yes, another glimpse:


    'We Have No Orders To Save You' – State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat APRIL 30, 2002




    Pakistan: Rescind Decree Allowing Military Trials of Civilians


  11. farrahshah Avatar

    Agree with Aamir Mughal ,there is a huge gap between life portrayed on Hindi cinema and the real life.

    It is fantastic to have Sikhs,Muslims,Christians ,Budhists to portray to the world stories of Democracy .

    In fact there is zero tolerance.

    Recently Grandson of Indhira said ,"I do not think about Jinnah even about for a second"Jinnah is gone"Jinnah is finnish and Jinnah is over"

    I was amused,why the guy was so obssessive about Jinnah that he made such a statement on National TV.

    The obssession is Pakistan….The obssession is Mahan Baharat .

    From Sri lanka ,to Afghanistan ,from Bangladesh to Nepal to ,Kashmir ,AKHAND BAHARAT …….

    please note :India is the only emerging state in Asia .Pakistan,Bangla desh,Srilanka,Nepal,all are biggest threat to the the security of the region and are all failed states .As per Indian media.

    And India can single handedly take over whole Asia without any resistance because rest of the NAtions have no sense of pride ,nationalism and defence in them.

  12. xxx Avatar


    yes you are right about pakistan being a failed state but I dont think other states as failed one.

    there was a survey asking pakistanis whether they consider themseif pakistani first or a muslim and 70 % told that they consider them self a muslim first so where is the pride and nationalism that you are talking about.

    the whole world is saying pakistan is the root of terrorism in todays world and pakistani's think that the world is biased and they think they are the victim when its not.

    first be loyal to u r mother land.

    the terrorist organisation which is blasting and killing innocent pakistani's say if india attacks pakistan they will fight against india.

    I think they feel that they only have rights to kill pakistani and if india attacks they feel that their rights is violated.

    think beyond religion and stop pitting your self thinking that you are the victims because you are the root of all problems in the world today.

    use the money that is throw at you to feed your hungry citizen and not in feeding wealthy politician or buying wepons to attack india.

    what you want to call your nation now ? a failed nation or a successful nation.

  13. xxx Avatar

    I know that saudi,dubai and other muslim is rich.

    can you please list the development work they have done in Afghan? and what as pakistan done?

    I know that India as helped afghan to build a high way and also there are into so many development work .what has pakistan done to there muslim brothers in afghan apart from killing them.