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Archive for February, 1995

The Great Silent Majority

Charismatic leaders of the third world may come to power on a wave of public adulation but retain their chairs only through the support of the Great Silent Majority among the masses. This support may initially be based on the residuals of euphoria of an election campaign, can be sustained only through achievements taken note of by the masses, particularly pertaining to their economic well-being, not unrelated to a sound law and order situation. When the public confidence in hollow rhetoric starts to erode, the balloon of popularity starts to deflate fairly rapidly, the end reaction can be quite damning.

Ms Benazir Bhutto’s ascent to power was preordained for several reasons, some positive and some negative. The positive reasons were her undeniable charisma, a lasting admiration for her late father, her stated manifesto and above all the massive western media support based on admiration for her brave struggle, translating into vital support within the vocal liberal wing of the political structures of the western nations, particularly in the Democratic Party in the US. Though PPP got a supposedly split mandate, she enjoyed the grudging support of even those who probably did not vote for her party. The negative support for her was because of antipathy towards late Gen Zia and his dictatorial rule, May 29 Junejo Government massacre being the last straw for even his moderate supporters. This was further accentuated by the penchant of the masses for genuine unadulterated democratic freedom and the natural inclination for change after a long hiatus, any change. After May 29, 1988 change just became a matter of time, Aug 17 was simply a tragic milestone along nature’s way to a free and fair election, as much as any election in a third world country can be called as such. To their undying credit, the military hierarchy kept the constitutional faith, strengthening the hands of the President in his clear choice of the leader of the majority party in the National Assembly, Ms Benazir of PPP, to form the Federal Government. For many reasons, again positive and negative, Ms Benazir needed to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan, despite her detractors there is no ambiguity or controversy about her ascent to power, this was as it should have been, added to that she seemingly had overwhelmed the regionalists in Sindh.

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The Great Silent Majority

Charismatic leaders of the third world may come to power on a wave of public adulation but retain their chairs only through the support of the Great Silent Majority among the masses. This support may initially be based on the residuals of euphoria of an election campaign, can be sustained only through achievements taken note of by the masses, particularly pertaining to their economic well-being, not unrelated to a sound law and order situation. When the public confidence in hollow rhetoric starts to erode, the balloon of popularity starts to deflate fairly rapidly, the end reaction can be quite damning.

Ms Benazir Bhutto’s ascent to power was pre-ordained for several reasons, some positive and some negative. The positive reasons were her undeniable charisma, a lasting admiration for her late father, her stated manifesto and above all the massive western media support based on admiration for her brave struggle, translating into vital support within the vocal liberal wing of the political structures of the western nations, particularly in the Democratic Party in the US. Though PPP got a supposedly split mandate, she enjoyed the grudging support of even those who probably did not vote for her party. The negative support for her was because of antipathy towards late Gen Zia and his dictatorial rule, May 29 Junejo Government massacre being the last straw for even his moderate supporters. This was further accentuated by the penchant of the masses for genuine unadulterated democratic freedom and the natural inclination for change after a long hiatus, any change. After May 29, 1988 change just became a matter of time, Aug 17 was simply a tragic milestone along nature’s way to a free and fair election, as much as any election in a third world country can be called as such. To their undying credit, the military hierarchy kept the constitutional faith, strengthening the hands of the President in his clear choice of the leader of the majority party in the National Assembly, Ms Benazir of PPP, to form the Federal Government. For many reasons, again positive and negative, Ms Benazir needed to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan, despite her detractors there is no ambiguity or controversy about her ascent to power, this was as it should have been, added to that she seemingly had overwhelmed the regionalists in Sindh.

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Fuelling Inflation

Having written barely eight weeks ago about the Federal Government’s “austere monetary policy” and “tight fiscal control” which had kept inflation “within acceptable limits”, it is not very palatable to eat one’s words, in the face of the evidence at hand one has to. That Ms Benazir’s Government has increased fuel prices in a mini-Budget barely 3 months from the annual Federal Budget is not the only problem, it potentially carries the force-multiplier effect of instituting double digit inflation, it is the type of economic time-bomb that brings political fortunes into question.

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The Taliban phenomenon

Over the past few months, a new movement transcending all political and militant factions has appeared in Afghanistan. The Taliban phenomenon has had considerable military success starting with the rescue of Pakistan’s road convoy to Central Asia. Since that land route initiative was taken by Maj Gen (Retd) Naseerullah Khan Babar, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, the freeing of Pakistani trucks and drivers hostage in the hands of the local warlords then in control of the region seemed to indicate Gen Babar’s control (or support) of this new force, as later events have shown this seemingly “new” breed of warriors of Islam in the already over-factionalised society of Afghanistan do not accept any control except that of God. The public perception about their sudden appearance and relative success may remain a mystery, rumours may abound about their objectives and origin but the answers are really very simple and has similarities in the third force movement even in our own country (though no connection one may hasten to add). Already perennial opportunity-seekers are trying to jump on the bandwagon of their success.

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