EDITORIAL: Another Arab domino? - Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Source : http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\02\22\story_22-2-2011_pg3_1

The latest ripple in the angry wave of revolt is being felt in Libya, where protests are being met with fierce resistance, leading to a bloody battle. Six days since the first echoes of revolt started in Libya, Human Rights Watch has reported that some 200 people have been killed by the security forces and that there are fears of a massacre taking place in the country in an attempt to beat back the rage of the people. Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, has virtually been taken over by the protestors. Their goal? To oust a ruler who has been in power for more than four decades. Moammer Gaddafi, unlike his counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt, has imposed a rabid crackdown on the dissenting masses, likening the country to a war zone. The anti-regime demonstrations are fast spreading from Benghazi and are now beginning to be felt in the capital city of Tripoli. The ruler, it seems, has employed his supporters along with the security forces, to “shoot without discrimination”. In the meanwhile, Gaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, in a televised address, warned protesters that Libya was not Tunisia or Egypt and that civil war could be imminent. He declared that the government would fight to “the last bullet”. These are threatening words indeed.

The Arab world is in an unprecedented state of revolt. Tunisia and Egypt have inspired the people into an irrepressible jolt into action. The Libyan protesters are looking to shape the country the way they see fit. Libya itself has, over the years, been fraught with many tensions and debilities. Now that Gaddafi himself is being cornered, it has become important to revisit the importance of this oil-rich country.

Unlike other dictators who have been ousted and are now under threat in these revolts, Moammer Gaddafi has had a love-hate relationship with the US and the west. After ousting King Idris from power in 1969, Gaddafi promoted himself as a populist leader, a staunch Arab nationalist and a supporter of Palestinian and anti-imperialist causes. Libya became a base for the support and training of radical left-wing terror groups such as the IRA, Red Army of Germany and Japan, and those supporting the Palestinians. Our very own nuclear scientist gone awry — Dr Strangelove — was exporting nuclear know-how and materials and one of the chief beneficiaries of this enterprise was Libya. Libya, being a supporter of left-wing guerilla movements and a recipient of nuclear proliferation, invited the wrath of the Reagan administration, which bombed Libya in 1986 (during which Gaddafi’s daughter was killed). Some say Lockerbie, which took place in 1988, was a revenge strike by Gaddafi. After Lockerbie came immense diplomatic pressure and the threat of sanctions, due to which Gaddafi had to change his stance to one of compromise. The Lockerbie accused were handed over and nuclear secrets were shared (Pakistan’s international image on its nuclear aspirations has never been the same since). From a populist leader, Gaddafi became a US stooge in the eyes of his people. His iron grip on Libya, the oil and gas wealth of the country and his populism were his trump cards and his image took a nosedive.

Now that the wave of revolt is ripe, Libyans seem ready to depose a leader of lost credibility and appeal. This, indeed, is a momentous moment in global history. Libya is a country that, due to its oil riches, shapes international oil markets. If Gaddafi falls, these markets will be adversely impacted, western prosperity fuelled by the oil wealth of the Middle East affected, and the global economy, still reeling from the aftereffects of recession, plunged into a tailspin. Arab despots are finally answering to history. Will history also take to task the supporters and beneficiaries of their rule? *

SECOND EDITORIAL: An interesting turn of events

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is set to say goodbye to its coalition partner in Punjab, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) by February 24, on the pretext that the federal government has failed to implement its 10-point agenda within the stipulated deadline. Initially, after the 2008 elections, the PML-N needed a coalition with the PPP because during the 10 years Nawaz Sharif was in exile, a majority of his party members joined forces with Musharraf and PML-N became a rump party. The rump was intact only in central Punjab; in Potohar, it was reduced to a pale shadow of itself and virtually disintegrated in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and southern Punjab. Hence the PML-N perforce had to rely on the PPP for a coalition, since it lacked a majority in the Punjab Assembly. However, now that PML-N has made sure that the PML-Q Unification Bloc is granted the status of a separate party, the opportunity for dumping the PPP has opened up. With this Bloc on its side, PML-N is confident that it can do without the PPP as a junior partner in Punjab. It seems that in the next election, the swing of 45 seats from PML-Q to PML-N in central Punjab in the 2008 elections may go further, with the present strength of the PML-Q reduced to only 33 seats in the provincial Assembly.

Moreover, it has been reported that Nawaz Sharif has been travelling around the country trying to reorganise his party and restore it to its former glory, in preparation for an electoral contest. PML-N has made it clear that it is not going to extend the deadline given to the federal government to implement its 10-point agenda. However, if these 10 points are observed closely, one may find that although some of the points are practical and can be met within the given timeline, some require years of meticulous planning and implementation. It seems the PML-N is trying to pile up the pressure of deadlines on the PPP and trying to bring about the fall of the PPP government at the Centre to trigger an early election. Regardless of the manoeuvring of the PML-N, the fact remains that the PPP has brought this disaster upon itself. It has repeatedly shot itself in the foot with its incompetence and chosen to ignore the consequences of its actions. From the present turn of events, it seems that if the PML-N is able to muster up the organisational strength for an electoral contest, an early election might well be called and the PPP may be hard put to it to defend its record in office since 2008. *

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