Wednesday, January 14, 2009

From Benazir’s Murder to Repeal of 17th Amendment

By Saeed Qureshi

The Pakistani nation and the world at large are witness to the two statements of the incumbent President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zaradri.The first is about the assassination of his wife and the chairperson of PPP in that he confessed of knowing the assassins but would not disclose their names for now. The second statement was the solemn promise made before his becoming the President of Pakistan in which he said that the first gift that he would offer to the nation after assuming the presidency, was to remove the controversial 17th amendments. In other agreements that he signed with the Pakistan Muslim (N), the second largest party contained the commitment to restore the genuine parliamentary democracy and to reinstate the Supreme Court judges deposed for former president Pervez Musharraf through an emergency on November 2 last year.

He said that whatever he said or wrote were not the words of the holy book Quran or of Hadith. By these statements he perhaps meant that his promises and commitments were not to be taken seriously or credible. He has the unusual courage and audacity to highlight his own flaw in his moral behavior which connotes “I am not trustworthy”. All the pledges that the PPP made before the 18th February 2007 elections remain unfulfilled. The situation in Pakistan as far as people’s problems are concerned is definitely worse and has immensely deteriorated. The ruling party’s promises to stem the worsening social and economic woes cannot be considered as credible because their president doesn’t believe in honoring the commitments either made to the politicians or to the people.

Coming back to the murder of Benazir Bhutto, the pertinent question arises as to what hinders the president to disclose the names of the assassins of the Chairperson of the PPP who was also his spouse and a politician of international standing. It was through her efforts and political dialogue that the PPP was overwhelmingly elected to power. Now concealing the names of the murderers of a citizen of Pakistan, let alone the political stature of Benazir Bhutto seems to be fishy. Either Mr. Zardari is afraid of the murderers or else he may have a truck with them. There could be one of these reasons for not unearthing the names of the perpetrators of this most heinous crime. If he is afraid of them then he has no right to be the president of a country because in that highly responsible position one has to take tough decisions for which one must be fearless. He can, therefore, compromise on national issues to the detriment of Pakistan and its people.

It is, therefore, necessary for the judiciary to take suo moto notice of the president’s statement and press his to disclose the names of the assassins of a remarkable political figure and a citizen of Pakistan. At the same time the People of Pakistan in general and the PPP cadres in particular, should demand of their leader to let the nation know of the names and identities of the elements behind Benazir’s murder and who deserve no mercy and no cover up from the president of Pakistan for any reason.

With regard to the repeal of the 17th amendment already various political parties are actively pursing these issues. The MQM a strong supporter of the PPP has taken a very important step for the removal of the 17th amendment and decentralization and devolution of powers in favor of the provinces. The so named 18th amendment bill that has already been deposited by MQM in the National Assembly secretariat, calls for retention of only three portfolios, namely foreign affairs, currency and defense, with the center. The annulment of the 17th amendment either partially or wholly would be a big step towards the establishment of a genuine parliamentary democracy in Pakistan.

While President Zaradri has promised to accept the parliament’s decision, the Prime Minister Gilani has announced the constitution of a parliamentary committee by his party to look into the various drafts of the other parties with regard to the rescinding the 17th amendment. While we wait to see this demise of the 17th amendment we shall also have to watch if a spanner is not thrown into this whole exercise by any political element. But more crucial and reassuring would be if the president and the prime minister stand by their commitments to restore a veritable parliamentary democratic order in the country.

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