EDITORIAL: Warring ‘partners’ - Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\09\story_9-3-2011_pg3_1

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has threatened to leave the coalition government in Sindh. In the wake of the MQM’s threat, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government is trying to woo it back by all means. Prime Minister Gilani said that the MQM is the PPP’s coalition partner and their grievances will be addressed. Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) chief Pir Pagara put it quite aptly when he said that the PPP and the MQM are like kittens fighting with each other when put in a bag together. This time, too, the MQM’s decision was because of Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza’s statement. Dr Mirza had said that the People’s Amn Committee (PAC) was a sister organisation of the PPP and to dub all its members as criminals was wrong and was akin to labelling him as one and the same. The MQM then issued a statement that said, “The home minister confessed that he is the patron of terrorists of the PAC who were involved in extortion, kidnapping for ransom and robberies. People of Sindh are quite right to question whether a person who patronises criminal elements and declares the Amn Committee a sister organisation of the PPP should be the home minister of Sindh.” Reportedly, President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed his “displeasure” at Dr Mirza’s comments. The MQM is not very happy with the provincial home minister’s antics and once again Dr Mirza has offered to step down from his position.

The situation in Karachi is as usual fraught. Target killings in the metropolis have once again started. In the recent spate of target killings, five MQM workers also lost their lives. Criminal gangs are bound to take advantage of the troubled political situation in the city; kidnappings for ransom and robbery are a norm in Karachi now. The overlays of a mini civil war are now out in full force. There is a three-pronged fight going on right now: the MQM vs MQM Haqiqi and the MQM vs the ANP/Pashtuns. There is an increasing likelihood that the trouble will now increase in not just Karachi but the entire Sindh province. It was because of this reason that the PPP, which had a majority in the Sindh Assembly, chose to make the MQM its coalition partner. In politics, it is always good to keep your enemies closer. But now the situation looks quite different. When the MQM quit the coalition at the Centre, the PPP was successful in bringing it back on the treasury benches. Despite this, the MQM chose not to join the federal cabinet again. After Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s coup against the PPP in the Punjab Assembly, the MQM’s decision makes sense. These are all indicators that all political parties are preparing for the elections, which might take place earlier than expected. The PPP government is in dire straits. No other party wants to be blamed as aiding and abetting a failing government.

At the time of writing these lines, senior leaders of the MQM were in a meeting with President Zardari. Interior Minister Rehman Malik and other senior PPP leaders were also present at the meeting. The outcome of the meeting will decide once and for all whether the MQM will decide to remain in the Sindh coalition or not. Whatever the MQM’s decision, the future of the PPP government looks bleak. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Pak-US relations at stake

President Asif Ali Zardari, during his meeting with Marc Grossman, US Special Representative of Pakistan and Afghanistan, urged the US to not allow an isolated incident to affect Pak-US ties. Mr Grossman, however, once again repeated the initial position of the US that Raymond Davis enjoyed diplomatic immunity and that Pakistan’s relations with the US could be restored to the pre-Davis incident level only after it released their man. The Lahore High Court will determine on March 14 whether Davis enjoys diplomatic immunity or not after hearing Foreign Office’s position and scrutinising relevant documents. Meanwhile, the court case is proceeding and Davis is likely to be charged with a double murder this week by a sessions court. On the other hand, various government officials, including the prime minister, have stated that the government is not seeking a backdoor solution and will let the court decide the case. Both sides are holding on their rigid positions without conceding an inch.

The issue, however, will not be resolved without finding a middle path. The jury is out whether this will be possible given the apparent hardening of positions on both sides. In the media and on the street the rhetoric is gaining resonance that the US is using agents like Raymond Davis to destabilise Pakistan, but it was Pakistan under Musharraf that first gave a carte blanche to the American CIA to carry out its activities in the region while the US continued to support the illegal rule of President Musharraf post-9/11. The extent of those activities has come under public spotlight only when Davis blew his cover arguably in dire circumstances by killing in broad daylight two Pakistanis, whose real activities and affiliations remain suspicious. Prima facie, there is more to it than an attempt to rob Raymond Davis, who appears to have chased them and made sure they were dead. The digging in of the heels by the Pakistan side signifies that this incident is being used to reverse that policy and gain concessions from Washington. It is difficult for a client state like Pakistan living on doles from the US to negotiate its position with a superpower by using an arrested agent. If flexibility is not shown by the two sides, the issue will get complicated and end up hurting the interests of both. *

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