Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In House Change may be in the Offing

Upright Opinion
In House Change may be in the Offing
October 12, 2010
BY Saeed Qureshi
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, a prominent member of PMLN and the opposition leader in the Pakistan’s National Assembly indicated to Karman Khan the host of GEO Television’s premier talk show, “AAj Karman Kay Sath” that the options for an in-house change against the incumbent government were being looked into. This indeed is a kind of breaking information in that one can obviously surmise that backdoor efforts premised on a constitutional modus operandi, were underway to foist another government in place of the incumbent PPPP-led coalition.
This strategy or option averts or obviates the much clamored demand or desire of the people for the army to capture power via a kind of coup that Pakistan has already witnessed and experienced four times in 63 years of its existence. In house change means the formation of a new coalition or realignments of the political parties with representation in the National Assembly to reduce the majority group to a minority group. The motion of no confidence can be tabled in the assembly for the government to obtain a new vote of confidence and to show its strength as the majority party.
Either already the PMLN is in consultation with other political parties having representation in the National Assembly or it is about to achieve that threshold where it would be in a position to challenge the legitimacy of the sitting government having majority in the Assembly. Otherwise, how could Nisar Ali Khan spell out this possibility on television, of the in-house change with so much emphasis and optimism?
By looking at the chessboard with various political parties out or in power, it would not be naive to speculate that MQM already seems to be a disgruntled party that has been openly slating the federal government for many policies that it thinks were not in the national or public interest. MQM is also distraught over abolishing the previous local bodies system run by mayors. Under that system, MQM has rather transformed Karachi metropolis into a relatively new city with a galore of modern civic infrastructure and facilities like overhead and under bridges, widening of roads and beautifying this largest city of Pakistan.
It is quite discernable that the fragile or tenuous alliance that exists between MQM and the PPP at the center might break any time. MQM is poised for a revolutionary change a la radical transformation in the body politic with feudalism to be abolished, real democratic order to be established, and moral and social virtues of justice and equality to be made universal in Pakistan.
On the other side of the isle, the partners that are components of the coalition at the center, the ANP under no circumstantces would abandon or part way with the PPPP. The reasons are obvious. President Asif Zardari has fulfilled a long-standing dream of ANP for changing the name of their province from NWFP to their chosen or recommended name, which is now Khyber Pakhtunkhawa.
Secondly, in the wake of Islamic militants’ violence, suicide bombing, target killing, subversion in the tribal belt and the Pashto speaking areas, the ANP government desperately needs the military and federal government’s support to face, fight, and fend off the tenacious militants. For ANP to forsake coalition with PPP is out of question and suicidal for this party.
As for religious parties with Maulana Fazalur Rehman in the lead, The PMLN will have to work overtime to win their support and wean them to the new dissident alliance that might defeat the sitting power partners on the floor of the national assembly. But keeping in view the time-tested fact that in politics there are always unpredictable possibilities, JUI may opt for a revolt to strengthen the anti- government bloc.
In the national Assembly, according to 2008 elections, the main party PPPP has 130 seat, PMLN 95, PMLQ 55, ANP 13, MQM 25, MML 6, PML (functional) 5, PPP (Sherpao) 1,National Peoples party 1 and Baluchistan National Awami party (BNP) 1. Besides, there are 18 independents. The coalition partners in the PPPP led government are, MQM, JUI (F) ANP, FATA members, PML (F), BNP, and four independents.
There are altogether 342 seats in the National Assembly including 60 women’s reserved seat and 10 for the minorities. Any sitting government needs a simple majority of 173 seats to remain in power. If by any chance, the proponents of the new alliance can muster over 170 votes in the National Assembly, the government can fall and thus can be replaced with the group having majority.
This can be done if MQM withdraws its support from the government and at the same time, all the Muslim leagues join hands to beef up the new alliance. Even without getting any seats from the women or minorities, the new alliance can defeat the sitting alliance by a few votes. However, if some women’s votes and of minorities can be acquired, then the new alliance would become a formidable force to stay at the helm until the new elections.
This kind of arrangement might be in the mind of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan when he hinted at bringing about the in-house change, which is not a tall order if seen in the backdrop of fast plummeting popularity graph of the sitting coalition government.

(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)

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