EDITORIAL: Rest in peace? - Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\30\story_30-3-2011_pg3_1

After three years at the helm of state affairs, the PPP government has decided that it is high time now to open a Pandora’s Box, one which, if prodded, has the ability to stir a frenzy of buried emotions and matters that had been brushed under the rug a long time ago. On Monday, the federal cabinet gave the green signal to Mr Babar Awan’s ministry of law and justice to seek the Supreme Court’s (SC) opinion on the matter of revisiting the verdict of the hangman’s noose on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a sentence that was carried out in 1979. President Asif Ali Zardari himself has said that his government is not seeking a “clash of institutions” by revisiting the demons of the past but, in effect, wished only to redeem the memory and legacy of the PPP’s founding father. It is reportedly because of this reason that the president is using his discretion under Article 186 of the constitution, which allows the head of state to obtain the opinion of the SC on any matter considered of national importance. Hence, President Zardari is all set to file a judicial reference on April 4 after taking party leaders into confidence.

While speculation remains rife about the emergence of this seemingly sudden interest in reviving the past, one must first consider the legality of the issue at hand and the route this new initiative might take. Where legal matters are concerned there are many factors that must be considered before a reference is allowed to proceed. One of these is the time limitation that is always in place in the case of matters that simply stretch too far back and the late 1970s are long ago indeed. Such technical matters can very easily be grounds for a dismissal of this petition. Also, it must be considered that this is essentially a criminal case and in Pakistan criminal cases are almost never reopened; it is unlikely that a precedent is going to be set now. It also remains to be seen in what manner the SC responds to the federal government’s move for a reference.

Some corners are speculating that this is the government’s attempt to embarrass the judiciary due to the fact that the PPP has been taking a beating of late by the SC, whether in the NRO case or termination of the NAB chief.

However, the loudest voices, in the end, will be those of the masses. The PPP has been in power for a good three years now and in all this time it has failed on a rather spectacular level to bring any solace or prosperity to citizens. Speculations exist that the government is now playing politics to divert attention from its failings and to open up the past for its own future: by reviving the memory and legacy of Bhutto, they may be looking to re-enthuse their electorate, which consists of many PPP supporters disillusioned by the present conjuncture but still enamoured of the charisma and policies of Bhutto. However, it is the same citizenry that is also at the receiving end of backbreaking inflation, a major dearth of energy, loss of valuable industry and jobs. The masses may not buy into a bid that plays on their sentiments but does little for their welfare. When day-to-day living is so taxing, the people may not be interested in a case that is so long gone and has no bearing on their lives in any significant way.

It remains to be seen which route this particular case takes but it can be asked: when the present and the future of this country look so bleak, can a return to the past offer any relevance? *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Let the ‘mother of all games’ begin

A semi-final between India and Pakistan is as good as it gets in a cricket World Cup, more so when the tournament is taking place in South Asia. This year’s Cricket World Cup has generated a lot of hype because of this one match alone. Cricket is as big, if not bigger, as religion for the people of the subcontinent. Thus it is no surprise that this semi-final has made both Pakistanis and Indians so emotional. The mood on both sides of the border is full of both excitement and dread — one can literally smell the fear of losing to the other side. Millions of cricket fans all over the world cannot wait to see the outcome of today’s match. In a few hours we will know which one of the two teams, Blue or Green, has qualified for the finals.

The rivalry between India and Pakistan is as old as their respective independence. Relations between the two neighbouring countries have remained sour most of the time since, but there have been patches where relations normalised relatively. Unfortunately, after the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, diplomatic relations suffered considerably. Consequently, cricket between the two nations suffered as well. After a long time and a lot of effort [via Sharm el-Sheikh and Thimphu], the Indo-Pak dialogue process has restarted. The Interior Secretaries of both countries met in New Delhi and one can see from their positive joint statement, the meeting went reasonably well. Now the only worrying aspect is that since there is a lot of hype about today’s match, it is hoped that the outcome of this game will not have a negative impact on the dialogue. There is nothing wrong with cricket diplomacy per se, but mixing politics and sports is not a good idea. Despite the bridge that cricket diplomacy is building between the two nations, our politicians should let cricket be cricket and let the game do the talking.

To reach the semi-final of the World Cup is not an easy task. Cricketing giants like South Africa and Australia crashed out in the quarterfinals while teams like New Zealand and Pakistan made it to the top four despite being the underdogs. Such is the game of cricket. It is hoped that our politicians and people will handle the outcome of today’s match with maturity. If India wins, Prime Minister Gilani should appreciate their team and congratulate the Indian side and if Pakistan wins, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should ensure that there is no jingoism targeted at our team. Sportsman’s spirit is what the game is about, and neither side should forget this. *

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