EDITORIAL: Libya bleeds - Saturday, February 26, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\02\26\story_26-2-2011_pg3_1

Libya is in a state of anarchy as the revolt in the Arab world now turns dangerous. Civil war has broken out in the country with pro-Gaddafi loyalists fiercely taking up arms against the protesters who have seized control of the eastern city of Benghazi — Libya’s second largest and most important after the capital Tripoli — and the towns of Misurata and Zuara. Gaddafi’s power base is coming under increasing threat and the dictator is being reduced to little more than an isolated, hated warmonger bent on destroying his country before almost inevitably being shown the door. The situation has become such that the army is being ordered to take on the protesters by conducting a large-scale genocide. Two fighter jets defected to neighbouring Malta a few days back because they refused to bomb protesting civilians on the orders of the vehement dictator. Reports are now coming in that defying Gaddafi has its own price: troops who do not obey Gaddafi’s orders are being executed en masse. Militiamen and Gaddafi loyalists are reported to be roaming the streets on utility trucks firing at anyone who is deemed as being an opponent of the dictator. So far, the death toll has reached an alarming 650 plus with fears that the violence is only just beginning.

Muammar Gaddafi is turning out to be the most hateful of all the Arab dictators recently facing protests. He rather arrogantly declared in a televised address recently that he would “crush the revolt”. He referred to the protesters — his people — as being little more than “cockroaches” and promised that he would die a martyr instead of bowing down to the rebellion. It looks like he intends to make good on his word.

In a bizarre twist, Gaddafi blames a very unlikely instigator of the whole Libyan revolt: Osama bin Laden. Now the terrorist leader can be blamed for many things but in the words of Muammar Gaddafi, fuelling the protesters with “milk and Nescafe spiked with hallucinogens” really does not seem like al Qaeda’s cup of tea (pun intended).

In the meanwhile, the international community is sending out a strong message: curb the violence now or face tough US and EU sanctions. NATO held an emergency meeting in Brussels on Friday and discussed deploying aircraft and ships out to the Mediterranean. The UN Human Rights Council is even considering expelling the North African country. These are harsh measures but the international community is shocked at just how far one man can go to perpetuate his rule.

Somebody needs to knock some sense into the old dictator whose every move is now oozing the stench of desperation. Libya has been overtaken by the fever of dissent, a new wave of defiance in the Middle East where young, passionate citizens will no longer stand for undemocratic, dynastic governments. This internal revolt and the loud external condemnation have collided to bring the country and its dictator to a death rattle where Gaddafi is doing anything and everything left in his power to fend off the ‘martyrdom’ he so defiantly professed. Before more blood is shed and before the rebellion turns into all out genocide, Muammar Gaddafi must go the Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak way and step down. He has had his moment of glory. It is time now that he leaves the stage for the sake of his countrymen. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Future of the PPP government

The flurry of efforts by the PPP to save Punjab’s coalition government did not work. The PML-N had already made up its mind. Mian Nawaz Sharif announced a parting of the ways with the PPP in Punjab in a press conference in Lahore on the pretext of its failure to implement the 10-point agenda within the stipulated deadline. Prima facie, it was for the sake of the people, but there is another dimension to it as well. After giving a deadline to the PPP, PML-N had taken measures to ensure the allegiance of the PML-Q forward bloc, comprising some 47 members of the Punjab Assembly, by giving it a separate parliamentary status. Although the PPP has declared this move illegal and the PML-Q has vowed to seek the Election Commission’s intervention to have it declared illegal, it is clear that the PML-N has decided to go down the path of confrontation after a three-year stint at reconciliatory politics. All its actions and strategies appear to be directed toward creating conditions for mid-term polls. Given the gradual weakening of the PPP government after the alienation of two of its coalition partners at the Centre, its ouster in Punjab would surely compromise its position at the Centre. Although the PPP has the electoral mandate, it has lost public confidence in its ability to deliver. Theoretically, it is perfectly within the realm of democratic politics to hold mid-term elections if the government decides to call it a day and seek a fresh mandate. However, the PPP has firmly ruled out such a possibility and said the government would complete its term.

It is, therefore, pertinent to ask what options are available to the PML-N to achieve this objective, given that it does not have the numbers so far for a no-confidence motion. Will it put paid to the Charter of Democracy signed between Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto while they were both in exile, and revert to the old trick of appealing to the military to intervene? Is the military ready for such an action given its involvement in the war on terror and the blatant illegality of the act? It seems not. Even if mid-term elections take place, parliament’s composition is not likely to alter much and one cannot expect a drastic improvement in governance anytime soon. In this situation, the costly option of mid-term elections is far from attractive. There seems little choice except to let the government complete its term and at the next round of elections, the electorate will have the option to vote out the parties that have lost its trust. *

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