Extremists and corrupt politicians keep shaking the young nation, says Gunter Mulack. Germany's ex-ambassador to Pakistan talks to DW's Grahame Lucas about the steps the country should take to strengthen its democracy.
Mulack says that the army must not be the crucial backbone in Pakistan
Deutsche Welle: How do you see the developments in Pakistan over the past few years? Where is the country heading?
Gunter Mulack: On the one hand there were great hopes after the democratic elections and after a democratic government took over. But on the other, it is also disillusioning to see how strong radical Islam is in the country. It only has minority support but it is strong and influential. The murders (of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti) and the discussion about the blasphemy law keep raising the question of which Islam is being defended. The majority of the population is scared of these radical groups, and they are not saying what they actually think. Sometimes I also think that this violent radical Islam in Pakistan is not just a cancer in an early stage but that it has spread to the whole country. It will be difficult to fight against it.
Does German diplomacy expect more from Pakistan in this regard?
We do expect the democratically-elected government to take more action in fighting against corruption, in introducing taxation, in implementing better governance and especially in implementing the rule of law. So the challenges facing the Pakistani government are huge. But we expect some real progress from them.
Maybe they can take some lessons from the German history, like the Weimar Republic which collapsed and was followed by the Nazi dictatorship...
Yes, absolutely. And of course you have to ensure that the army is not the crucial backbone of the country. The army has to subordinate itself to civilian representatives. And this has not yet happened in Pakistan.
Gunter Mulack: "We expect some real progress from the Pakistani government"
Right after the current government came to power, it attempted to assume control over the intelligence service, but failed miserably. Do you think there will be another opportunity of this kind in the future?
I think there will only be an opportunity if Pakistan really has a government that is accepted by the whole population, that is respected for its straightforward policies and which the military is also willing to submit to. But when you have a government that has the reputation of being corrupt, then you can't expect the military to take a back seat. Even the Americans might not be particularly interested in that either.
One way to achieve this, as well as more prosperity, would be a close relationship with India. Will that happen? Will the so-called composite dialogue get back on track?
Pakistan wants it. India to some extent as well. But you have to see that India is a big country, a country with a population of over a billion people. Compared to that, Pakistan is a relatively small country. And Pakistan is time and again perceived as a threat, considering the radical Islam in Pakistan. Both sides need to play their role. And maybe it is our role to appeal to both sides amicably, to do more to implement confidence-building measures and to prepare the way for peaceful coexistence.
Can or should Germany act as an intermediary?
We alone certainly cannot do that. We can do that within an EU context, we can do that as part of various talks, our politicians and members of parliament can address this topic over and over again during their visits. Our political foundations can also make attempts, which they are doing already, to bring together decision-makers from both India and Pakistan to simply create more trust.
Gunter Mulack was the German ambassador to Pakistan from 2005 to 2008. During his years as a diplomat he was stationed in several Middle Eastern state such as Bahrain and Syria. He currently heads the German Orient-Institute in Berlin.
Interview: Grahame Lucas/ag
Editor: Thomas Bärthlein