Archive for October, 1994
Over the past month or so, the Army has been conducting large-scale “search” operations in various parts of Karachi. Beginning with the sudden pre-dawn encirclement of Jacob Lines and continuing with areas as diverse as Natha Khan Goth, Pak Colony, Paposhnagar, etc, the well-kept surprise raids have unearthed large quantities of arms, ammunition, stolen vehicles, wanted criminals, etc. As the Army (backed up by Rangers and Police) have become more sophisticated in their moves, so have those whom they are attempting to bring to book, as such the spectacular results of the first few operations have not been repeated on the same scale. However, there have been a sharp decline in the level of criminal activity. In contrast to the general relief coursing through the general public, for those with motivated interest to keeping Karachi aflame this has not been well received. It is not surprising, therefore, to find them using diversionary tactics and disinformation in trying to undo the Army’s success.
The one startling observation to emerge from the continuing process is that despite facing hardships, the citizenry have only raised muted protest at what would normally have been taken to be harassment and humiliation amounting to grave provocation. No one likes to live under curfew, not being allowed to go to work, bereft of the daily necessities of life, for children to be confined at home away from school, etc. In spite of the sense of persecution that the citizens were imbued with over the past two years, they seem to have taken the inconvenience with good spirit. This phenomenon is representative of the strong public perception that the Army from its hierarchy down to the common soldier are now genuinely enthused about performing the mission allotted to them without fear, favour, personal ambition or any vested motivation, i.e., the Army is sincere about restoring the rule of law in the Province of Sindh in general and the city of Karachi in particular, that Operation Clean Up is no longer directed primarily against the MQM and by extension against themselves as a whole community. This strong feeling of neutrality has permeated into the sub-conscious of the people of this city giving hope to restoration of the peaceful quality of life that they once enjoyed in Karachi. While the metamorphosis has been quite complex, the Army is itself relieved to have ceased a no-win campaign against those who had been perceived to have been their natural allies since independence in 1947. One can even perceive in the mass perception a gradual return to the admiration for a once-revered institution, albeit somewhat grudgingly still.
A couple of weeks ago, the Leader of the Opposition, former PM Mian Nawaz Sharif, had unveiled a comprehensive policy package to overcome the growing political crisis. The policy package of 9 points was made conditional upon 7 additional steps. Very briefly the package envisages (1) guarantee for elected Assemblies to complete their 5 years term with the results of the general elections binding on all parties and that no movement against the government be launched (2) independent members to join a political party prior to taking oath as Assembly members (3) for a period of 10 years no vote of confidence against the PM (4) powers vested in one individual that infringe upon sovereignty of Parliament be removed (5) women’s seat in Parliament be restored (6) procedure for appointments in judiciary be reformed (7) mode of participation of Leader of Opposition in national affairs be defined (8) constitutional guarantees be provided for conducting free and fair elections and (9) to eliminate corruption and misuse of authority, a sovereign institution be set up. While there may be some legal and procedural debate about circumscribing the powers of Assembly members to launch a vote of confidence against a PM for a period of 10 years, most of these proposals, except for binding the legislators against a “no confidence” motion which prima-facie would lead to a political dictatorship, are sensible prima-facie and the Bhutto government could theoretically give a short “OK” to the package in principle before sitting down to thrash out details that need elaboration.
The problem arises with the preliminary demands of the Leader of the Opposition, viz. (1) an election schedule be announced after which both President and PM should resign (2) the NA should not be dissolved so that constitutional amendments envisaged aforementioned can be passed (3) a caretaker PM be elected from the present Assembly by consensus of the two major parties so that he (or she) can make arrangements for conducting fresh elections (4) both political parties should hold dialogue under the Caretaker PM in order to formulate the new constitutional amendments (5) the caretaker President in consultations with the two major parties appoint non-partisan, non-controversial Governors (6) upon passing of the Constitutional amendments the Caretaker PM should dissolve the National Assembly and Governors, on the advice of the Caretaker President should dissolve the Provincial Assemblies, under the new constitutional arrangement, the Chief Election Commissioner should conduct fresh election with 90 days with the help of the Caretaker National and Provincial governments. One does not have to be a clairvoyant to come to the surmise that the Bhutto government will deliver a short emphatic “NO” to the aforementioned and gird its loins to meet the challenge in the streets, violently if need be. While the Opposition had been successful in bringing their protests out into the streets, the end results have fallen far short of shaking the Ms Benazir Government, what to talk about dislodging the regime.
If anything, the year 1996 will be remembered in Pakistan for the maximum rise in prices of essentials during any one single period in the nation’s history. Never before have the people of this country been subjected to such economic pressure in their daily lives as in the past three years. A galloping inflation seems to be on the verge of running wild, in essence we are only five miles from economic midnight. That the government’s economic handlers have been a disaster is no more a moot point, what is of concern is that they will probably escape accountability for criminal mismanagement of the economy. If we can hold a person who does not know driving to be culpable of murder for causing an accident leading to death, why cannot we charge-sheet those in charge of the economy for bringing it to virtual demise? Punitive action must also be made mandatory for these technocrats who have been active collaborators in helping those in ultimate power in the government loot the nation till at will.