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Archive for November, 2002

Sindh’s Centrifugal Forces

Within six weeks of re-entry into the body politic of the nation, democracy is performing in line with the general claim made by its detractors that most politicians of the third world put self-interest over good governance as their primary objective. With the PML (Q) nominee for PM Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali barely passing muster with a heterogeneous mix of votes (including that of 10 “patriots” from PPP-P), the battle shifted to the Provinces. With the PML (Q) and MMA having quite a majority respectively, the governance of Punjab and NWFP was never in doubt. The situation in Balochistan and Sindh Provinces is another story! MMA may have got the immediate edge in Balochistan by winning over the nationalist parties but the vital ground of Sindh (and with it the prize catch of the cash-rich port city of Karachi) has become a veritable quagmire. No party having a clear majority, it was either the PPP-P or the MQM that could lead a possible coalition of smaller parties or they could join together in a Provincial coalition opposed to the Centre. The smaller parties with the “swing vote” had different ideas, they thought it was their prerogative to name the Chief Minister. On that premise all possible permutations and combinations floundered and the Governor postponed the Sindh Assembly “Oath-Taking” Session indefinitely till matters got sorted out as to who had the clear mandate to govern. The possible options are mind-boggling enough to call into question the core character of the political parties in the fray, do they in fact have an ideology or are their ambitions confined only to coming to power by any means, fair and foul?

Maulana Fazlur Rahman has been living in the heady bliss that he was Ms Benazir’s first (and only) choice to be PM. That was conveyed not only directly after the elections but was repeated ad nauseam by Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan. Imagine the good Maulana’s seething anger when he discovered what everyone and his uncle already knew, she was only using him as a willing pawn to blackmail the military regime. Hell hath no greater fury than a Maulana scorned by a woman (and a politician at that), the PPP-P may well live to repent the games Mohtrama has been playing with the JUI (F) Chief’s emotions, more importantly, with his aspirations. Her scathing denunciation of MMA, a far cry removed from her stance availing at the end of October when the PPP-P and MMA were close to forging a coalition, was very ill-received by the MMA leaders. Keeping intact her normal posture of “doublespeak” for different audiences, Ms Benazir now feigns that she was always against the “fundamentalists”. The hard fact remains she was always ready to bed them politically as long as she got what she wanted, mainly that NAB charges against her husband and herself dropped. Since the military regime called her bluff (and it is believed Uncle Sam also showed annoyance over her evolving coalition plans), she has scrambled from one political option to another in trying to hold the Federal Regime hostage to her designs. Once Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali was past the first post, PPP-P fell back on trying to hold their Sindh bastion.

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The Perils of Democracy

After three years of life in the cold, the heat generated by politicians in the National Assembly was to be expected, this surpassed our apprehensions. Even with the compulsion of a graduation degree, unadulterated democracy does not seem suited to most countries of the third world. Every individual is entitled to express one’s views without inhibition, that being the essence of democracy, the loudest advocates thereof tend to drown out others from using the same prerogative. The term “parliamentary language” is certainly not synonymous with what is mostly used in the August House. While unbridled rhetoric remains the hallmark of our freedom of expression, one can only hope that time will bring discretion into the tone and tenor of the elected representatives, who by their present conduct and demeanor seem to represent anything but the aspirations of anybody but the people of their electorate.

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The Fog of Democracy

Meeting less than a fortnight after the completion of the electoral process on Nov 2, the members of the National Assembly (NA), duly sworn in by the outgoing Speaker, Elahi Bakhsh Soomro, will vote to elect the NA Speaker and the Deputy Speaker. These elections will provide the outlines of the democratic government that will emerge from the “fog of democracy” prevailing since Oct 11 in the country. While the military government of three years will cease to exist, the new government will consist mainly of those whom the military regime removed on Oct 12, 1999 but who nevertheless during the election campaign publicly supported the rather benevolent three-year militarily rule. The PML (Q)-led Grand National Alliance (GNA) commands enough of a democratic bloc (sans the two other major parties, PPP-P and MMA) to ensure that the man who emerged as the nation’s leader by default as a result of Mian Nawaz Sharif’s mid-autumn madness, General Pervez Musharraf, will continue as President. Before administering the oath of office to the PM-elect, most probably Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, the President will be administered oath of office by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan. With the swearing-in of the PM, the much-maligned 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, duly abridged, will stand restored.

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Trading Dark Horses

The process of the General Elections of Oct 12, 2002 was completed by Saturday Nov 2. Due to meet on Friday Nov 8 the National Assembly (NA) was postponed for a week at the request of some political parties to give them some time to shore up their coalition arrangements. A proposed alliance led by PPP-P and MMA is pitted almost equally against the grouping led by PML (Q). With the bogey of “hung Parliament” hanging in the air, one doubts whether a stable government could be formed in the Centre. Both the PPP-P (which privately had called for a delay) and the MMA immediately condemned the postponement, labeling it as a machination of the incumbent military government trying to contrive a PML (Q)-led government coalition.

Who are the main players in the power game? PML (Q)’s Ch Shujaat Hussain with the largest number of MNAs must be counted as a major player, followed closely by PPP-P’s self-exiled leader Ms Benazir Bhutto (and her incarcerated spouse Mr Asif Zardari). One must not forget Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the Jamaat-e-Islami chief who is the chief architect/planner of MMA’s strong showing, MQM’s self-exiled Altaf Hussain in London or the Jeddah-based exiled brothers Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif of PML (N). The name of the game is acquisition of power, somehow! What is of consequence is that all the political parties are talking to each other i.e. except for PML (Q) and PML (N), an anomaly that needs to be corrected. And who are the contenders for the prized post of PM? The horses in contention are Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali of PML (Q), Makhdoom Amin Fahim of PPP-P and MMA’s Maulana Fazlur Rahman. While PML (Q)’s Khurshid Kasuri and Humayun Akhtar cannot be ruled out as possible choices, compromise candidates can be Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao of PPP (S) or Hamid Nasir Chatha of PML (J). In this world of horse-trading, is there a dark horse somewhere?

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Is There Smoke Yet?

As much as the Catholic faithful flock to the Vatican to see smoke appearing from the chimney signifying that the closetted college of cardinals had finally agreed upon the new Pope, the people of Pakistan have been anxiously looking at the skies over Islamabad for a sign that our new political messiah may have been chosen. Since our version of the College of Cardinals is the periodical Corps Commander’s Conference, should the people be looking at Rawalpindi skies? The last time smoke appeared over GHQ it was one of the stationery stores catching fire. With Ramazan less than a week away, the appearance of the PM could be subject to the disappearance of the moon. Since late night on Oct 10, the nation has been waiting anxiously for a PM, they might as well be waiting for Godot. The only person at the moment nominated as PM-to-be by any political grouping, Maulana Fazlur Rahman (by MMA), is not likely by any long shot to be PM, by the time the Nov 1 date mandated for transferring power has come around, we have just about completed the elections to the women’s reserved seats. With National Assembly now scheduled to meet on Nov 6, transfer of power is to be completed by Nov 14. The schedule given is the best time and space adjustment in the circumstances, in contrast the Brazilian President-elect Lula will have to wait two months till Jan 1, 2003 for his inauguration.

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