EDITORIAL: Shifting political landscape - Saturday, April 30, 2011

Source : http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\04\30\story_30-4-2011_pg3_1

The agreement between the PML-Q and the PPP for the former to join the ruling coalition is all but signed, sealed and delivered. That final step too may not be long in coming, perhaps within the week. The terms of endearment appear to have been settled in a meeting at the presidency between the president and the Chaudrys. Media speculation as to the terms range from the deputy prime minister’s slot for Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, five federal ministries, seven ministers of state, one advisorship with the status of a federal minister, one provincial advisorship each in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, and Mushahid Hussain to replace Hussain Haroon as the permanent representative at the UN. This seems quite a hefty price the PML-Q has extracted, even if one does not take into account moves and rumours that Chaudhry Pervez’s son Moonis Elahi will be let off in the corruption case against him. Also included are seat adjustments between the new ‘friends’ in the next general elections and the Punjab provincial elections (the last meant to hit the PML-N), and the Senate elections in 2012. What does the PML-Q bring to the table? High sounding rhetoric about being not so much interested in ministries as concerned about the state of affairs of the country, which require all parties to pull together in a “national reconciliation government”. The PML-Q is said to have prepared a plan to revive the crippled economy, improve law and order, address the energy crisis, and bring prices of essential goods under control. In addition, President Asif Ali Zardari is said to have asked Chaudhry Shujaat to persuade the JUI-F and the MQM to return to the coalition.

What does the PPP gain from this devil’s bargain between the erstwhile ‘Qatil (Murderer) League (so characterised by the PPP after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination) and the leading party in the coalition? First and foremost, a comprehensive majority in parliament, which safeguards it against any no-confidence move against it, and will be very useful come time to have the budget passed in June. Notable in all this toing and froing is the studied absence of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, said to be estranged from the Chaudrys and keeping himself well away from the whole deal. It may be that once the agreement is finalised, the president and co-chairperson of the PPP will be able to persuade his prime minister of the need for a pragmatic realignment if the PPP-led government is to complete its tenure. That is not to say that there has not been considerable heartburn over this turn in the ranks of both the new coalition partners. Nevertheless, real politik and the exigencies of coalition politics, which promises to be the state of affairs for the foreseeable future, seem to have won the day over the naysayers on both sides.

This turn of events may help to explain the extraordinarily acerbic exchanges over the past few days between the ‘revived, real opposition’, the PML-N, and the PPP in the National Assembly. Could it be that the PML-N feels genuinely threatened by the new alignment, especially in its home turf of Punjab? It may be too early to speculate along this line of thought, but there is no denying that the shifting political landscape proves once again the old adage: there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics. Whether this realignment will help the country’s plight or go down in history as ‘failure piled on top of failure’ can only be settled once the new coalition actually comes into existence and starts functioning. The challenges are indeed immense. The capacity to address them remains to be proved. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: The Navy targeted once again

In what can only be termed as acts of terror in quick succession, Pakistan’s Naval forces have once again been struck by the jihadis. After the devastating double bombing of Naval buses in Karachi on Wednesday, where four Navy personnel were killed, the terrorists have taken their malevolent designs even further by bombing another bus of Pakistan Navy personnel, killing five and injuring 20 on Thursday. In all these attacks, remote controlled detonators were used.

Karachi has been a hotbed of violence for many years now in what are mostly political turf wars combined with the agendas of ruthless criminal gangs. Now it seems that this dangerous mix has added a new member: terrorists. The Pakistani Taliban (TTP) have taken responsibility for Wednesday’s attacks and it is presumed Thursday’s attack is also theirs. The TTP has vowed to take revenge on the country’s security forces as Pakistan is an ally of the US in the war on terror. These attacks on the sailors who defend our waters are just the latest in a string of attacks on the armed forces. However, it is intriguing to ask why has the Pakistan Navy been chosen now. It seems that the answer can be summed up in one word: Karachi. The city is a hybrid: part metropolis, part labyrinth, a virtual warren that is fruitful soil for terrorist elements interested in creating turmoil and bloodshed. The many no-go areas in Karachi are the perfect breeding ground and hiding place for criminals and terrorists of all shades to base themselves, recoup, share intelligence, organise and carry out their sinister plans. The city has proved to be the very haven outfits like the TTP need when planning efficient and organised attacks. The bombings of the Navy buses in quick succession in Karachi, the Navy’s main base, shows that the seedy alleyways and hidden corners of the city are just what the terrorist doctor ordered.

With terrorists also taking advantage of the uncontrolled areas of Karachi, it is time those in charge of ensuring law and order in the city start doing their job. Swoop and clean up operations of all mazes within the city need to be accelerated and such areas made safe once again. Too much blood has been spilled in this port city; it is now time to clean it up of all the violent elements. *

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