EDITORIAL: Shifting political landscape - Monday, March 14, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\14\story_14-3-2011_pg3_1

News reports suggest that the PPP has invited the PML-Q to join the federal government. On the other hand, President Zardari went to Karachi to cool down the frayed tempers of the MQM, which had decided to quit the Sindh government and has not returned to the cabinet at the Centre following differences with the PPP. These are all indications of a shifting political landscape, where the PPP is increasingly finding its position jeopardised. It has been ousted from the Punjab coalition government, while the departure of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F) from the federal government has left the PPP fragile and weak. PML-N and Nawaz Sharif are girding their loins to take on a weakened PPP. Additionally, the government is facing pressure from the Supreme Court to implement its decisions on the National Reconciliation Ordinance and removal of the National Accountability Bureau chief, which might actually translate into exposing President Zardari and his cohorts to a selective process of accountability. In this situation, it is not surprising that the PPP wants to bring the PML-Q into its fold, the only party left with some strength in parliament to bail it out, despite major ideological differences. Earlier, the PML-Q winced at such a possibility because after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, her husband and now president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, had squarely laid the blame on PML-Q, by calling it Qatil (murderer) League. However, after the Unification Bloc ditched it in Punjab and announced joining the PML-N, the former king’s party has been sobered and might consider ending its isolation by joining the federal government.

After remaining out in the cold for the entire period of General Musharraf’s dictatorship, the major political parties had vowed to adopt a national rather than partisan outlook, as reflected in the now dead in the water Charter of Democracy, and not undermine one another to the benefit of extra-constitutional forces. Since the PPP returned to power after the 2008 general elections, it has been following the policy of national reconciliation and was supported by the opposition PML-N in all its major decisions. Now, from the various fractions, attitudes and actions of the political class, a disjuncture and shift is visible. It seems everyone is back to looking to their narrow interests. It was inevitable that this process would set in sooner or later.

Such shifts in the political landscape indicate that a change is coming. It is difficult to predict whether that change will be within the current parliament or in the shape of a fresh election. Given Pakistan’s sorry history, for a democratic government to have completed three years without interruption is no mean achievement. While it is perfectly within the realm of democratic politics to hold mid-term elections to seek a fresh mandate if an elected government fails to deliver and fulfil the mandate it has been given by the people, if anyone is harbouring an anti-democratic agenda involving extra-constitutional forces, that must be resisted by all political forces in a united effort. From among all the options currently available to Pakistan, democracy, with all its warts and flaws, is the best option. Pakistan cannot afford another military intervention in the name of implementation of court decisions or cleaning politics of corruption. It will undermine the collective interest of all the democratic forces. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Saying no to lotacracy

In the days of old when lotas were originally invented, they were not of the flat-bottomed variety we find today. They had a curved base that, once you were finished with your private business, would be put down only to roll around in almost any direction. Much like those lotas of old, we find that our politicians of today are amply round bottomed and give in to rolling wherever the political winds blow. It is because of them that the Punjab Assembly (PA) came close to resembling a circus the other day, with those who felt aggrieved by the political lotas crying foul.

The PPP, in its debut appearance in the PA as part of the opposition after being unceremoniously ousted from the Punjab government, joined the PML-Q in chants of “lotas” directed at the PML-Q Unification Group who joined the PML-N to send the PPP packing. The PPP has now taken to its role as the opposition in the PA and opposition leader Raja Riaz could not complete his maiden speech as the new Leader of the Opposition for five hours during which the exchange of verbal brickbats between the treasury and opposition benches continued. After these unedifying shenanigans, our political representatives hitched things up another ludicrous notch by partaking in a lota football match outside the house. Although one does not typically get to see political personalities indulging in such buffoonery, we really can do without these sorts of stunts.

Pakistan is in a state of chaos. A critical food shortage looms, with inflation shooting up the prices of necessary goods. Basic needs go unfulfilled as we hardly have any electricity, gas and water to fuel our daily lives. Our politicians have completely forgotten about the hundreds of thousands of flood victims who still lie in relief camps without necessary amenities. We are infected with terrorism and jihadi parasites. Instead of finding viable solutions to these and many other problems, our representatives have brought the political culture to a new low as they idle away their time and our tax money in acts that would make stage dramas proud.

The verdict is still out on the fate of the PML-Q Unification Group and its merger with the PML-N as the Election Commission has yet to address the issue. Our assembly members should get on with their job and find solutions for the state of the country instead of the distraction of playing political football with each other. *

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