Sunday, April 5, 2009

Mend or Await Military Take-Over

By Saeed Qureshi

In the prevailing pervasive nationwide crisis in Pakistan, the most overriding issue for the PPPP government is to hunt and punish those individuals who vandalized the memorial posters of Benazir at the venue of her assassination at Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Garden. While the country is exploding with agitations and rallies by politicians, judiciary and other segments of civil society, the PPPP is riveted on posters’ issue. Perhaps the stress on Benazir’s posters is aimed at sentimentally exploiting the PPPP supporters and activists to demonstrate in equal measure as a counterpoise to the unrelenting anti government countrywide resentment. While there is so much focus on the non-issue of posters, no one from the ruling party talks, even in whispers, about the assassins of Benazir Bhutto, which in fact ought to be the prime priority with the PPPP, especially with her spouse Asif Ali Zardari who by sheer convergence of favorable circumstances is now the occupant of the Presidential Palace in Islamabad.

Asif Zardari is publicly on record of stating that he knew the murderers of BB but would divulge their names at an opportune moment. Now what can be an opportune moment than the present one for a disclosure that would entail justice to the callous criminals? In this case, evidently, Benazir is being denied the justice and her murderers are being covered and protected.

In face of mounting public uproar, the incumbent PPP government has fallen back upon the oppressive dictatorial tactics and odious machinations to curb the prevailing popular discontent. The capture of freight forwarding containers and placing them on roads to hamper and block the lawyers’ march and rallies is reminiscent of the darks days of military dictatorships in Pakistan. After unjustifiably removing a functional and popularly elected government, the enforcement of section 144, a loathsome colonial caveat, is in vogue in the largest province of Punjab.

The Governor’s Rule is imposed in extraordinary circumstances such as the political impasse, class war and in the eventuality of government getting totally dysfunctional. None of these conditions were visible in Punjab. On the contrary, the government of Shahbaz Sharif was doing exceedingly well. The Punjab’s government’s aversion to the Nazims’ system of local government implemented by Former president Musharraf could have been one of the reasons for imposition of the Governor Rule. Another could be the self-engineered hostility of the PPPP’s cavalier governor of Punjab. But these reasons are far from being cogent. It is the prerogative of the provincial government to dismantle, quash or reorder a system of local bodies that hampers its smooth functioning.

It could have been an ideal situation for Pakistan, if in line with their mutual understanding worked out over a period of two years; the two leading political parties would have continued sharing the government at the center. The coalition set up at the center stayed for a few weeks and then PML had to part company due to non-compliance of the agreements on undoing some of the controversial decisions of the former regime under President Musharraf. But while leaving the government, the PML (N) still pledged to keep supporting the PPPP’s federal government from outside. Perhaps PML (L) wanted to have a tacit coexistence with the PPPP at the center with its own in Punjab. But President Zardari, true to his nature, dropped, all of a sudden, the hatchet of Governor’s Rule on the PML government in Punjab. That queer and uncalled for action led to the complete and unbridgeable rift between the former coalitions partners who were signatories to the revival of true democracy and a splendid change in the soci economic milieu of Pakistan.

The PPPP ministers and ideologues are, unwisely, straining their energies to prove right the glaring grave wrongs committed by the higher echelons of the party most notably by the president who doesn’t even bat his eyes in breaking the covenants he reaches out with his political compatriots. But the flood of public disenchantment cannot be blocked or turned away by mere inane statements, chicanery, duplicity, by fraudulent antics such as lying, bluffing and by outwitting others with dirty intrigues.

This was the time of making a new Pakistan. The destiny had placed this onerous yet glorious responsibility on the shoulders of political leaders after a stifling lull of a decade of de-facto authoritarianism. Woefully, the leaders have failed miserably in dispensing a historic role that would have earned them the nation’s abiding gratitude and admiration. The nobility of character and high moral standards that are hallmarks of gentlemen and norms of decent governments, geared to serve the masses, are at a minimal level in Pakistan’s ruling cabal. They are not honest and sincere in their personal or official conduct of affairs.

The presidency in Islamabad remains infested with a galore of private parties while the governor house in Lahore is a hub of carnal amusements. Such is the degree of moral decay of our leaders. The majority of people in Pakistan yearn for a morsel of bread and clean drinking water, affordable medicines and food, shelter to live and security to their life and property. This spectacle presents a dreadful contrast between the lifestyles of the rulers and the ruled in a country that keeps alternating between dictatorships and corrupt and inefficient political dispensations.

Obviously the present grossly flawed political set up cannot last long. There should be fresh elections under an independent election commission and a neutral interim government. The present government must resign and come back with a fresh mandate from the people of Pakistan. Otherwise, the level of crises would keep on ballooning exponentially, in both vertical and horizontal directions. With things going beyond control, this time too, no one can stop another military take-over: if not by COAS General Kiani then by some one else.

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