Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Tottering Government

January 8, 2011

The Tottering Government

By Saeed Qureshi
Just imagine the abject manner; the incumbent government of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has bent over heavily backward to woo back the perennially rebellious political party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. The PPP government wants to remain in power by hook and by crook even if it means selling its veneer of prestige in broad day light.

It has been stooping so low as to fall now into a ditch of disgrace and public chastisement. The political analysts would demur and wonder how a tottering government is busy in making all the base efforts to cling on to the bandwagon of power which is getting out of its control at a breakneck speed.

Many a time, the government has eaten the humble pie. The prime minister made a humiliating pilgrimage to the nine zero to mount the last ditch endeavor to keep the MQM within the government fold. This servile attempt will not stand in good stead for the leading coalition partner in power. The government has budged and surrendered like the ill-famed General Niazi who laid down his arms at the so called Palton Maidan in Dacca in December 1971, before the Jubilant Indian army commander general Aurora.

This is no dignified politics .These are ignominious antics to catch at a straw that would eventually serve no purpose. Sooner than later the power boat is destined to sink with its passengers. When the people moaned about the RGST (reformed general sales tax) the government pretended to be deaf. When the people protested at the spike in petroleum prices, the government put up stubborn stone walling against such public uproarious clamors. But God bless the MQM that came to the rescue of the masses and thus the government reversed the harsh measures that would have heaped more miseries upon the economically choked people of Pakistan.

When the government is presenting the worst format of governance and not serving the people of Pakistan even with a modicum of good governance, why does it want to hang on to the power? What credentials and bona fides is it left with to be in the power saddle and keep ruling the roost? If today it can muster enough votes in the assembly to survive: what about tomorrow and in the coming days? Will it always fall back upon cheap sell-out of its honor and broker its stay by conceding ground and giving in to the demands howsoever, untenable and exacting, hurled by the political opponents.

The government by its acts of omission and commission has put itself on life support now being administered by its disaffected coalition partners. But how long this artificial rescsuitation would work and keep the political party alive? The MQM’s appeasement cost the government immense chagrin of the global financial brokers namely the IMF, the World Bank and the mighty United States of America. An 11 billion dollar relief loan is jeopardized.

The Gilani government fails to perceive the stark reality that its days are numbered unless it puts it act of performance in order. There are still more looming challenges to the ability of the government desperately trying to hang on to power.
One is from the PMLN that so far is euphemistically dubbed as a friendly opposition. It walked out of the coalition yet it kept dishing out it unqualified support and cooperation to Mr. Zardari and Mr. Gilani. On this gratuitous support, the PPP high command must be gloating.

But of late, the head of the PMLN who has developed a paranoid about the army rule, ever since he was ousted by general Musharraf through a military coup, is sending mixed and rather menacing signals. He has issued a 45 days deadline to the government to accept his 10 point agenda or otherwise face the dire consequences.
As far the electoral count and vote bank, the PMNL has a much better standing than MQM. Moreover, while MQM is having a coalition with PPP in Sindh, the PMLN has the same political quid pro quo with the PPP in Punjab. The PMNL has warned of parting company with the PPP in Punjab if the situation does not show marked upturn with regard to good governance and addressing the people’s problems.

The PMNL has been issuing such warning shots at the PPP from the time when the PPP’s untamable stalwart Salman Taseer was still the Governor of Punjab; giving very tough time to the PMNL led provincial Punjab government. Now when he is no more, the PMNL should have lowered it level of saber rattling. But it did not and instead has come up with a 10 point demand notice.

On the contrary it would be further emboldened to put more pressure on the PPP. There seems to be no match of Salman Taseer to be picked as the governor of Punjab, who was an unrivaled expert in fire-spitting and tongue lashing. The appointment of president Zardari bosom friend Sardari Latif Khosa would be more irksome for the people if not for the political parties.

Mr. Khosa has earned notoriety for his scams and scandals in kickbacks and other questionable wrong doings. His choice as the governor of Punjab highlights the sordid fact that government is promoting toadyism. Khosa is crafty but not as petulant as his predecessor was. The exit of Salman Taseer is more conducive for PMNL as it brings it into a stronger bargaining position that before.

It is predictable that MQM that wants to extend its appeal and political canvas to the whole of Pakistan would not like to be tied with the apron string of the PPP for a longer period of time. Its image has been considerably dented by making a last minute compromise with the PPP at the center. If this party keeps it working relationship with the PPP at the federal level, it would fail to achieve its goal of turning into a national party from a parochial one that it is perceived to be now.
The irrevocable stand that the MQM has taken on RGSL and hike of petroleum prices is more beneficial to the MQM than bringing any big advantage to the PPP. The reason is easy to dig out. The MQM took a principled stand in support of the people of Pakistan while the PPP government stalled decisions under pressure and to save its numerical parliamentary strength to forestall a no confidence.

The storm is gathering on the political horizon of Pakistan and is assuming ominous proportions. The religious lobbies are poised to unceasingly resist the amendment of the blasphemy law and prosecution of Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Governor Salman Taseer. All the religious parties are united on opposing the government and mobilizing the people on the sensitive question of blasphemy. Of late, they have announced countrywide protest rallies on January 15, over Pope Benedict XVI call for repealing the blasphemy Act and to release Aasia Bibi.

How the government is going to stem such cataclysmal movements is beyond any tangible assessment. That would entail more bloodshed, chaos and anarchy for a country already trapped in the quagmire of problems.

No sane person is in favor of derailing the prevailing democratic system and its replacement with the army rule. But if the democratically elected leaders are totally oblivious to their responsibilities of serving the country with devotion, selflessness, honesty and patriotic spirit then the people’s yearning for a change whether democratic or otherwise is bound to explode.

Probably there is a viable way-out for the government to avert the impasse that the country is likely to be plunged into by religious movements, or the ultimatums or pressure tactics of other political adversaries. It should, on its own should announce fresh elections and get a renewed popular mandate. That is the only face saving exit for the tottering and shaky PPP dispensation. Otherwise the future scenario seems to be murky for the government.

To many compromises, too many pledges, too many challenges are dangling over the head of an already shaky government. Only God almighty knows how it is going to cope with the plethora of hurdles in its way of completing the five years mandate.

The Prime Minister Gilani’s prompt acceptance of Nawaz Sharif’s latest demands is on the face a tall order for the PPP government to honor. Similarly Maulana Fazalur Rehman’s demand for the prime minister to resign and not to alter the blasphemy law is a stupendous stumbling block hard to surmount. Additionally people are at their wits ends due to unbridled lawlessness, rampant unemployment, galloping prices, economic miseries, and no hope for the future.

The writer is a Dallas-based journalist and a former diplomat. Email: qureshisa2003@ yahoo.com
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