EDITORIAL: Political mumbo jumbo - Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\01\story_1-3-2011_pg3_1

The claws are out and all our political actors are ready to pounce on each other. The PPP and the PML-N are busy outdoing each other in the war of statements. President Asif Zardari, who heads the PPP, says he wants to protect the democratic system. The PML-N, meanwhile, is not so sure about its stance anymore. On the one hand, PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif keeps assuring the electorate that he does not want to destabilise this government but on the other hand, he has threatened to start another ‘long march’. In the situation in the country, which has achieved democracy after nine years of dictatorial rule, is it not a disservice to our democratic system to issue such threats at this point in time? President Zardari was concerned about the horse-trading allegations in Punjab and called it a violation of the Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed between (late) Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif in 2006. He said that the CoD was “binding” on the PPP as it has always “been a democratic party”. Chief Minister Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif accused the PPP of being the one to have ‘shattered’ the CoD. He also accused the PPP of conspiring against the PML-N in Punjab. The future of the PPP in the present Punjab government might be bleak but the re-emergence of the horse-trading phenomenon is something that is alarming.

The CoD was a response of two exiled leaders of the two mainstream political parties of Pakistan who had come to the conclusion that their mutual rivalry, nay hostility, had left the door open to undemocratic and extra-constitutional forces. It has been an age-old tradition in Pakistan that politicians make it a point to reduce natural political rivalry into downright enmity. Mian Nawaz Sharif and (late) Benazir Bhutto had been archrivals from day one. There had been mudslinging between the two whenever one was in power and the other in opposition in the 90s. Each claiming to be the arbiter of Pakistan’s destiny, did all he/she could to stab each other in the back. In the end, they only did each other, and themselves, in. Although the struggle against Musharraf brought them together, mutual suspicion re-emerged after Ms Bhutto’s assassination in 2007. The PML-N and PPP vowed to respect the CoD as both parties were serious about the restoration of democracy and decided to put aside their political differences. In a reconciliatory move, both parties formed a coalition government in Punjab and at the Centre. The PML-N decided to quit the federal government and sit on the Opposition benches when the PPP did not restore the deposed judiciary, amidst other simmering differences. Yet, the politics of reconciliation continued in Punjab, until now.

From 1988-1999, we saw both the PPP and the PML-N constantly holding meetings with the chief of army staff (COAS), appealing to him against each other. They were both appealing to the very centre of power that cut them both down each time. Horse-trading was central to such political gimmicks of the time. If these two parties have not learnt their lessons from those 11 years, we might see a repetition of the same era. The credibility of our political class is so low at the moment that if an undemocratic move takes place to get rid of all of them and the democratic system to boot, it would be difficult to garner support in their favour. It is time that both the PPP and the PML-N pull back from the brink before they are both drowned in this rhetoric that they are spewing without thought against each other and come together to defend the system. Our future depends on it. *


Colonel Gaddafi has been left with few options other than to step down after the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) slapped sanctions against him, his immediate family members and close associates for his regime’s intemperate response to public protests. The UNSC unanimously froze the assets of 16 persons representing the elite and imposed a travel ban on them. Meanwhile, the anti-Gaddafi insurgency that started from the east of the country is gradually inching westwards towards Tripoli and the insurgents have captured some important towns near the capital. It is not certain whether the regime will be able to hold out. With mounting external pressure and unremitting domestic resistance, it will not be easy for Gaddafi to cling to power any longer without causing more bloodshed. Already 100,000 people have fled Libya’s conflict zones to neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt. There are also 18,000 Pakistani students and workers stranded in Libya, some of them in strife-torn cities. The government must ensure their security and arrange for their return to Pakistan till conditions improve.

The political situation in the Middle East is still very volatile. Renewed protests in Tunisia against the interim government have forced the resignation of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, in charge of the post-Ali setup. In a relatively quiet Oman, two protesters were killed by the police. It might be argued that protesters in other countries would take their cue once again from the Tunisians for continuing their struggle till a truly representative government is formed and the rights of the people are ensured in the new setup. Recent developments in Saudi Arabia are of great interest in this regard, where Saudi academics, activists and businessmen are calling for elections. It seems that the winds of change have finally reached Saudi Arabia, where the ailing monarch tried to appease the people by allocating $37 billion in schemes for improving the lot of the low- and middle-income strata, including a pay raise for state employees. However, it seems that this will not be enough. Recently, protests have been held in the kingdom against government corruption. It is inevitable that the Arab mood will permeate here too. Given the spread of revolt throughout the Middle East, it will be vain for Gaddafi to insist on fighting back. It will only cause more bloodshed and leave behind an unenviable legacy after four decades of iron-fisted rule, whose end is nigh. *

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