EDITORIAL: New coalition - Sunday, May 01, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\05\01\story_1-5-2011_pg3_1

In the second round of talks in as many days, President Asif Ali Zardari and Chaudhry Shujaat have finalised the terms of the agreement for the PML-Q to join the ruling coalition. The terms more or less follow the expected contours. Chaudhry Pervez Elahi will be offered the post of deputy prime minister, for which some legal luminaries argue, there is no need for a constitutional amendment. A mere change in the Rules of Business by the prime minister will suffice. Of course the prime minister is still missing from these deliberations, although he has publicly endorsed the decisions of his party’s co-chairperson in advance even of being briefed. Some observers feel the creation of the deputy prime minister’s post implies a dilution of the powers of the prime minister. That remains to be seen. But the significant fact that Chaudhry Pervez Elahi will enjoy two seats for his office, one in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat in Islamabad and one camp office in the State Guest House in Lahore may offer a clue as to the real purpose behind the induction of Chaudhry Pervez to the high office. Clearly, if he will be ‘operating’ from Lahore, that constitutes a threat to the ruling PML-N in Punjab. The latter is rumoured to be considering the resurrection of the IJI (second) to counter the move perceived by it as a direct assault on its grip on Punjab. There is also some loud thinking in the PML-N circles to press for snap polls before the March 2012 Senate elections, in which the PML-N stands to lose out, having no representation in Sindh or Balochistan provinces.

In addition to the prized new slot of deputy prime minister, the PML-Q seems set to acquire six ministries — health, trade and commerce, petroleum, industries, agriculture and information technology — all important economic and social subjects. Also, they have been offered six slots of ministers of state, three advisors to the prime minister, and the UN ambassadorship. This last position was speculated to have been reserved for the PML-Q secretary general Mushahid Hussain. However, some reports in the media cast suspicion on whether Mushahid will accept the new coalition per se, let alone the UN ambassadorship. Since the gentleman is on an extended tour abroad, we will not know his response until the ink is already dry on the agreement expected to be signed next week.

There are said to be other dissenters within the PML-Q who remain unreconciled to joining the PPP-led coalition. Whether they will take the time-honoured route of all dissenters of PMLs and form their own faction or leave the party altogether remains open to question. One prominent PML-Q leader who has been estranged from his former party the PPP and the president has now been reconciled with both when he accompanied Chaudhry Shujaat for the meeting with the president. Faisal Saleh Hayat is expected to get an important ministry and the support of the PPP in his Jhang constituency in the next elections. The PPP will reportedly dump its own candidate, Syeda Abida Hussain, Hayat’s long-time rival.

The new emerging coalition has also agreed, on the PML-Q’s insistence, to retain the Higher Education Commission (HEC) at the Centre along with the National Curriculum and National Drug Council. The retreat by the PPP on the devolution of the HEC will surely not sit well with the architect of the 18th Amendment, Senator Raza Rabbani. These are the costs of forging the new alignment, most of which appear to be to the detriment of the PPP. However, we must not lose sight of what the PPP gains from the new arrangement. It wills secure a comfortable majority in parliament, get the budget passed (to be presented on May 28 we now learn from Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh’s announcement), and insert its PML-Q Trojan horse into the PML-N’s jealously guarded Punjab ‘fort’. And this despite the soothing noises by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani that the PPP will not destabilise Punjab. A period of rough and tumble politics seems imminent. g

SECOND EDITORIAL: A marriage made in media heaven

Every detail was scrutinised and no stone was left unturned. The media had a field day on Friday with the royal wedding of the present era, some 30 years after Prince Charles and Diana walked those same monumental steps. It was a beautiful event, straight out of a fairytale and it is hoped that newlyweds Prince William and his bride Kate Middleton enjoy a much happier ever after than the late Princess Diana. However, amidst all the activity, pomp and show, one is a little perplexed why the media - all over the world - gave the nuptials more coverage than all other events the world over combined. The media frenzy was so high pitched that issues that have the potential to make or break history seem to have paled in comparison. Terror attacks, financial recession, global strife, all were shoved aside while we were made privy to every twitch of the groom’s eyebrow, the much trumpeted wedding dress, the who’s who on the guest list and so on. While one can hardly lend much real importance to these matters, it seems that the intense coverage was generated to give people the world over a chance to escape for just a few hours on Friday the drudgery of everyday life and its problems. Pakistan seems to be particularly hung over from colonial times and our news channels banished almost all mention of the many crises here, from power outages to suicide bombings, and made merry with live coverage borrowed from international news channels.

However, the whole show has brought yet another perspective back into the limelight: in a world and time when the buzzword is ‘democracy’, just how relevant is the monarchy in the 21st century? Although the British relate to their monarchy as a symbol of continuity and tradition from a time when they literally ruled the world, the rest of the globe has moved on. Almost every country is striving to better their democratic process, while some are trying to usher out their monarchies and introduce it. Why then all the hoopla about a prince getting married? Escapist reasons aside, the media is a tool for public awareness and accountability, including news broadcasting networks. Throwing away so many hours of precious airtime for frivolity could almost be considered something the media ought to be held accountable for. It is time the media re-examined its own role. g

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