Wednesday, January 25, 2012

President Obama’s State of the Union Address

January 25, 2012

By Saeed Qureshi

Most of president Obama’s State of the Union address for 2012 was focused on domestic agenda, the hallmark of which was jobs creation and revival of declining economy. He mentioned the foreign policy issues in passing with reiteration of unequivocal support for the state of Israel.

The larger part of his one hour address was devoted to his past three years’ achievements towards creation of jobs and improvement of economy that he hinted was crippled during his predecessor’s time. He also claimed the mammoth laurel of killing Osama Ben Laden, weakening the Taliban’s network and recalling the American soldiers from Iraq and troops drawdown from Afghanistan.

In his Tuesday speech he has briefly yet succinctly laid out the outlines of his agenda and manifesto for the forthcoming elections. It is a kind of preemptive maneuver to face his Republicans rivals who would bend every conceivable effort and pull every possible trick to dislodge him from the presidency.

Giving a bird-eye view of the so called Arab spring, he pointed out that while Col Qaddafi, with blood of Americans on his hands was dead, the Syrian dictator Bashar will have to yield to the mounting public outburst against his regime and he too will have to relinquish power.

He pledged that Iran would not be allowed to pursue her nuclear program and that she would be further pressurized and isolated in all manners to desist from the development of nuclear technology that would eventually enable her to make a weapon.
President Obama skipped the detailed mentioning of Afghan imbroglio except hinting that several thousand troops would be heading home by the end of the current year.

He even did not mention Pakistan or Afghanistan that are major partners in America’s war on terror and coalition partners in her decade long war against Taliban and other anti American elements. Nor did he outline the scenario that would emerge after the American forces leave Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, he exuded optimism that with the complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and a sizeable portion from Afghanistan this year, the money thus saved could be spent on rebuilding American aging and obsolete roads, decrepit highways and crumbling bridges. Underlining his accomplishments in reviving the automobile industry, he hoped America would now be in a position to export cars to other countries.

His cardinal clarion call however, was about the immigration reforms the he mainly addressed to the Republican Congressmen and urged them to “at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country.” He vehemently asked the Congress to “send him a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away.”

He also strongly advocated absorbing those foreign students within the United States, who are forced to leave America after completing their studies this benefitting other countries with their skills, expertise and knowledge that they acquire here.

He announced that outsourcing would now be discouraged. His agenda for revival of fragile economy included a plan to take back tax breaks from American enterprises that were outsourcing jobs in foreign countries. Simultaneously he proposed new tax concessions for manufacturers that will work in United States.

He proposed as high as 30 per cent tax on the wealthy classes earning a million dollars or more and for the lower income sections almost half of that. He exhorted the Congress with both the rival parties to approve tax reforms, job creation plans, downsizing government, and that he was ready to sign these into a law the next day.

Another important part of his speech was to rollback tax cuts on oil companies in favor of investments in clean energy sources. He proposed tax incentives for the homeowners to help them to save $3,000 a year on their mortgages which would also buoy up the sluggish housing market. He expressed his firm resolve to go ahead with his economic agenda irrespective whether it was approved by law makers or not.

While he held iron-clad guarantees for the security of Israel, he did not say even a word about the Palestinians’ right of statehood that he has been vociferously pronouncing in his previous state of union addresses. It clearly demonstrates that now he is taking a partisan position in favor of Israel in order to woo the strong Israeli lobby in Congress and elsewhere for support in the forthcoming elections.

Obama’s speech was a well calculated strategy to set the tone and unfurl a prelude for the next elections as the American people were less interested in foreign affairs and more on jobs and continuation of their social and utility services and benefits. He dwelt on the populist themes to win the waning support of the Americans for him who overwhelmingly voted for him in the 2008 elections, hoisting him to the presidency of United States.

Iran has a Right to Develop her Nuclear Potential

January 22, 2012

By Saeed Qureshi

Iran faces a persistent existential threat from the Arab regimes most notably from Saudi Arabia. Iran has centuries old conflict with Arab dynasties initially of regional import and sectarian after the advent of Islam. Iranian population predominantly professes Shia brand of faith that is markedly different from the Sunni faith practiced in Saudi Arabia, several other Middle Eastern countries, as well as beyond.

It is also a question of regional domination. Before the advent of Islam in 6th century A.C., most of the Arab peninsula was under the occupation of the successive Persian empires. This tide turned when for the first time, the Muslim army under the command of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) defeated the Persians in a battle known as “Ziqar”.

That trendsetting battle was followed by a succession of more decisive victories by Arabs against the Persian empires consequently occupying the entire Persia. While the Islamic dynasties were later ruled by the families hostile to the family of prophet, the dissidents had been taking refuge in Iran.

The notable Shia spiritual leaders called Imams (blood descendents from prophet) are buried in Iran. Iran has been hosting members from the lineage of the prophet. In Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Iraq, mostly the Sunni sects have been ruling for centuries together. In Syria however, after the World War II, the extremist Shia faithful called Alawi( 12 % of the population) headed by Hafiz al Assad captured power in 1970.

While Saudi Arabia and Iran have a clear-cut divide as being Sunni and Shia regime, the other Arab regimes are dived into Shia or Sunni majority lands. For instance in Bahrain while it is the Sunni minority government, in Syria, the hardcore Shia minority Alawi rules the country. Iran therefore, is the only sanctuary for the Shias faithful not only living in Iran but elsewhere in the world.

The Islamic Arab regimes mostly being the family dynasties or autocracies are friends of Israel and the United States but hostile to Iran. As such the interests of these dynasties and those of Israel converge. Although Israel and the Arab countries are religiously opposed to each other, yet they are united and are one when it comes to destroying or debilitating Iran which they perceive as a common threat to the overbearing domination of Israel and the survival of the Arab regimes.

Iran is therefore, faced with two-pronged threats: one from the inveterate enemy of Islam which is Israel and the other from half brothers, fellow Muslims for being a non Arab Muslim state with a divergent faith that is considered as heretic by the Sunni brand of Muslims.

Both Saudi Arabia and Israel want and need the American military prowess and economic vibrancy to check or contain Iran’s nuclear advancement that is reportedly moving towards the manufacturing of a nuclear bomb or the so called weapon of mass destruction. The United States too does not want nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and even elsewhere in the world.

But along with both of its protégés namely Israel and Saudi Arabia, America would not want a radical Islamic theocracy to develop a bomb that would pose a potential threat to its client state Israel whose defense has become the abiding priority for the United States after the WWII.Israel is currently believed to possess between 75 to 400 nuclear warheads with the ability to deliver them by intercontinental ballistic missile, aircraft, and submarine.

Iraq -Iran war (1980-1988) taught Iran a lesson. The entire Arab bloc was arraigned against a nascent clerical regime that was brought into being in 1979, upon the ouster of the Iranian monarch Raza Shah Pahlavi after a bloody domestic uprising. The nearly decade long war between Iraq and Iran, primarily imposed on Iran by Saddam Hussain in 1980, took a toll of a million Iranian casualties without any conclusive outcome in either belligerent’s favor.

If a similar deadly war is again imposed on Iran either by Israel or Saudi Arabia with American support, what options would be available for Iran to defend herself against a sudden preemptive attack. If it is a nuclear yet limited attack by Israel either for the regime change or for dwarfing or curtaining the Iran’s economic or military prowess and ability to make nuclear bombs, what course should be left for Iran to fall back, Should it surrender, remain silent or fight back?

Saudi Arabia will buy military weapons of all categories from USA at a cost of 60 billion dollars. That military hardware is not for showoff or to be used against Israel but understandably against Iran. Saudi Arabia may even ask the United States for a missile umbrella or atomic deterrence as provided to Israel.

The IAEA working under the influence of the western countries and America has been banking upon fake and concocted reports in the past to legitimize sanctions or military actions against the target countries. The most astounding example is that of Iraq, invaded under the fabricated charges that she was making or was in possession of nuclear weapons.

Iran therefore, cannot take chances. It has to beef up her security and defense by resorting to every conceivable measure that would guarantee its survival as an independent and sovereign state with credible defense. As for change of regime in Iran, it will come gradually with the change of internal dynamics and conditions and with the home grown urge for change.

The models of such a gubernatorial change are manifest in various Arab countries where absolute despots whether from well entrenched family dynasties or independent revolutionaries were in power for decades. These strong tyrants have been finally uprooted by the mass movements and now a transitional interregnum is underway that would enable these countries to shift from absolute autocracies to pluralist democracies.
Any adventure whether military or by covert intriguing and media blitz against Iran may fizzle out. In the aftermath of the Iranian elections in 2009, the opposition tried to whip up a frenzy and agitation but failed to dislodge or rock the government. The commonality of shia faith by nearly 95 percent Iranian population is also the bedrock of their unity. Any underhand efforts or arm twisting maneuvers to change the regime would turn abortive and in return could prove to be a blessing in disguise for the Ayatollahs of Iran.

The much talked about preemptive surgical strike by America in tandem with Israel is fraught with grave dangers for the region and the world peace. Iran unlike other tin pot regimes in the Middle East is, by its own right a very strong military force to reckon with. It cannot be defeated or invaded or attacked as was done in case of Iraq and Afghanistan. If during the conflict it expands the war theatre, the neighboring states like Bahrain and Kuwait and even Syria would fall like the leaves falling from trees in autumn.

America and Israel would have to correspondingly up their ante and intensify military response and thus this kind of warfare may elongate. The regional peace would be torn to shreds and Israel would be one major casualty in this cataclysmic conflict that might turn into a kind of Armageddon swallowing the peace with use of the most fearsome atomic weapons.

This is a very scary and horrendous picture that could be the consequence of a military misadventure on the part of America and Israel that are eager to annihilate Iran. A similar strategy was adopted by NATO and America, although for different reasons, in Libya and Iraq. But as stated earlier Iran’s case is drastically different from the weak Arab regimes that are run with uninhibited oppression and naked force while Iran has a modicum of democracy that might flower as the time passes.

If the underlying objective of the anti-Iran saber-rattling is nuclear non-proliferation and to clear the region of weapons of mass destruction, then in all fairness it can be attained only if it covers all the countries of the region.

If Iran is to declare its nuclear sites for inspection and to keep the level of enrichment of uranium to a permissible level, then Israel should also follow this yardstick. While Israel’s stockpile of nuclear warheads is not even mentioned in passing, Iran is being brought under all kinds of pressures to wrap up or curtail a project which is yet far from the threshold of weapon production.

There should be no holy cows and untouchables for the attainment of nuclear free globe. In order to attain universal non proliferation and obliteration of deadly nuclear arms, then all those nations that possess huge nuclear arsenals should also destroy those stockpiles. If some nations can make and maintain nuclear weapons while the others cannot, then the whole excercise of saving humanity from a nuclear holocaust looks, partisan, sham and farcical.

Ironically while Israel is protected by American missile system, Iran has no such outside help that could come to its rescue when faced with a grave situation of being under attack. Russia and China would not commit to Iran’s help to the extent as America is wholeheartedly committed to that of Israel. So it is patently a very one sided and unequal situation that impels Iran to beef up her defense by any means she deems desirable and emergent.

Instead of issuing ultimatums, imposing crippling sanctions and planning to launch deadly surgical strikes on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and facilities, it would be decidedly desirable and a saner approach to negotiate with Iran in order to find out the truth and take the word from Iran on its face value that her nuclear program was geared towards energy production and not to fabricate weapon. Even if, per say, Iran finally makes a weapon, it would still be no match to what Israel or United States are in possession.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ron Paul is the only Redeemer in these Desperate Times

January 15, 2012

By Saeed Qureshi

Libertarian candidate Ron Paul’s purported objective to recall American troops engaged in fighting on foreign lands is one monumental step that would save an incredibly huge pile of dollars to be spent at home for rebuilding America.

Ron Paul is the person among the whole lot of Republican candidates for the presidential race who does not mince words nor speaks with tongue in cheeks.
He is honest and a true American who can redeem our country from an abyss it is immersed up to scalp. The Republican candidates make the same tall yet inane promises of flowing milk and honey in this country are hypocritical and harping on the same superfluous tunes that so many others like them have done in the past but when in power shirked from fulfilling their commitments.

The cardinal issues among others in the ongoing debates are jobs, poor economy, and size of the government, taxation, and social services like infrastructure, healthcare and education. We have tried and voted into power the ultra-conservatives and we have also supported the so called moderates who pledged making this country the greatest of all. No one delivered in accord with their high sounding promises and fell back in the lap of pressure groups that loot this country on various pretexts.

There was a God given chance for America to lead the world after the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1989 following the decade long war that was essentially fought by the Mujahedeen and even Muslim jihadist drawn from all over the world. The senior Bush rousingly declared the heralding of a new world order to be lorded over by mighty United States. That was one unique and defining moment of glory and accomplishment for the United States.

But instead of leading the world with justice, equality, neutrality, equanimity, peace and prudence, the United States turned against the very Islamic warriors who rendered incredible sacrifices for United States catapulting it to the dizzying heights of splendor and realization of a cherished dream which was to defeat a formidable adversary in both ideological and military terms.

What the senior Bush had proudly pronounced, his unscrupulous son the junior Bush nullified and brought America into a sordid and horrendous situation of military warfare by reigniting wars in Afghanistan followed by another war in Iraq for counterfeit and spurious reasons that changed from time to time. The resultant colossal loss of life on both sides and ruinous fallout on American economy are writ large.

Now America has a three trillion dollars deficit due to spending on wasteful and unjustified wars. The Muslim nations, by and large have been aligned with the liberal and capitalist West whose resources such as oil was voraciously used by America and the west on easy terms.

But forgetting of the historic role of the Muslims in Afghanistan, the deplorable attacks of September 11, 2001 carried out by a few misguided Arab young individuals were put in the lap of the entire Muslim world. America initiated a new war that was labeled as “Clash of civilizations. But primarily its undertones were west led by America versus the Islamic nations.

Now it in indeed a belated realization by America that instead of hanging on to these decades long fruitless wars, it was indispensible to recoil and withdraw due to escalating drastic downturn of American economy. One may ask that besides plunging the entire glob into a decades’ long turmoil, what worthwhile benefits this great country has derived, except a battered economy, neglecting domestic development, stalling space exploration, hyped cost of living, and lowering the morale of the Americans with despondent feelings of losing hope.

It is in this challenging situation and accelerating deterioration that we need a new leader with a vision distinctly different from the stereo demagogues and habitual promise makers. Such a leader is no one else but Ron Paul who is neither left nor rights, neither hard line conservative nor a socialist but a sincere modest leader who can redeem America from further drift and decline.

All other contestants among the Republicans and Democrats are in favor of the exploitative pressure groups, influential lobbyists, ruthless corporations and rapacious big business sectors. These aspirants for power seldom talk of taxing the rich and wealthy and super duper business and industrial tycoons, because they draw fabulous financial benefits and huge donations from them and return the odious compliment by supporting legislation to safeguard their self-serving interests.

Ron Paul is brave, outspoken, and offers a remarkable manifesto for real change from status quo and universal antagonism to bridling the decadence at home and making amends with the world at large. Ron is one distinguished person among the whole lot who does not have sleazy or doubtful baggage from his past. He is modest in living and unlike his contenders is neither a tried horse nor filthy rich.

The lobbies of special group interest closely or remotely remain linked with the politicians and the congressmen and senators for facilitating legislation that keeps their economic regimes intact and ensure huge profit making. Ron Paul is not only against external purposeless wars but has substantive agenda for restoring and reviving the real America that was laid-out by the illustrious founding fathers of this unique nation.

He favors modest and small sized government and check the greed of the cutthroat elite and wealthy classes. He is unflinchingly committed and is a veritable successor of those eminent leaders who shaped America and had a great far-reaching luminous vision to indemnify the liberties and fundamental rights of the citizens.

So America needs to straighten its moral rudder which can be only performed by Ron Paul who talks of fairness, non partisanship and non interference in other countries affairs. He supports a nation for the Palestinian state so that an historic injustice is put right. He wants both Israel and Palestinian states to exist side by side.

He does not want another war front to be opened against Iran for no compelling reasons. The influential war lobbies in United States would bitterly oppose such an earnest American as he is one who is challenging their urge for war mongering and speaks for civil liberties and rights of the American people.
As far nuclear technology and weapons he equates Israel and Iran at par and wants to also focus on Israel’s nuclear stockpiles in comparison to Iran. The Obama administration is fomenting the same confrontational environment with Iran as George Bush did with the Taliban way back in 2001. If that ruse did not pay the then administration then there is a slim likelihood that it would benefit the incumbent administration as well.
Ron Paul wants to wash off and rectify deformities in American foreign policy and in her relations with the rest of the world. He abhors pick and choose policy by making friends and foes, create fictitious conditions for launching wars and then recoil after horrendous damage and loss, as we can witness in case of Afghanistan and Iraq.

If Ron Paul is elected to the highest office in America which is presidency, he would be a true reformer and a committed redeemer setting this country on a course that would endear it to the entire world. Such a policy would bring to an end or scale it down the malignancy and rivalry that exists between America and other countries dubbed as hostile.

It is high time that America instead of perpetuating deadly wars should think of winning the hearts and minds of the world population. It should desist from creating hostile pockets dividing the nations and then supporting one against the other. A soft and friendly America can rule the world under a new benign order provided it embarks upon a path of fraternity with all nations and shuns the syndrome of hostile or allied nations and war psychosis.

It should be carrot that should be used to rally the states around her and not stick and gun that provoke hatred and bring bad name to America; otherwise the biggest donor for humanitarian causes on the face of the earth. Let America for a change prove that it can be friend and humane to the other states and was shunning belligerency and propensities for hegemony.

It is foregone that the countries whether hostile or friendly would respond to such benign postures, with an equal measure of warmth, goodwill and an earnest desire to make the world an abode of peace, harmony and progress.

The Immigration Nightmares at American Airports

January 14, 2012

By Saeed Qureshi

If you have gone through the immigration procedures at the American airports, you will bear me out that it is nothing short of a nightmare. The immigration officers randomly pick up the passengers and send them to a separate enclosure where they are subjected to intriguing and harassing enquiries starting from their visits aboard, purpose of staying, whom they met and how long and where they stayed etc.

Even if a passenger has already made several visits to and fro United States and also is an American citizen, he or she is asked these redundant questions and fingerprinted again. From every incoming flight quite a few passengers are made to wait in special rooms for additional questioning. Such patently discriminating treatment is mostly meted out to the passengers from the Indian subcontinent and Arab countries.

A passenger with a beard, turban, wearing long robes, women wearing headscarf or those having wheatish pigment are vulnerable to additional scrutiny. For travelers of Pakistani origin and more specifically with such suffixes or prefixes as Muhammad and Ali, the interrogation is nothing short of a torture.

There were such instances at the airports that the passengers with a beard or long trousers as the Muslims wear, was not allowed to travel and offloaded for fear of sabotage or due to the concern expressed by fellow passengers. The fundamental rights, the trust in citizens and civil liberties are not taken seriously and their infringement at the airports is now a common practice.

While the TSA (Transport Security Administration) is responsible for baggage and body search of the passengers, the immigration staff checks the traveling documents one of which is the passport with visas if required.

“The TSA created in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, is charged with developing policies to protect U.S. transportation, especially in airport security and the prevention of aircraft hijacking.”

Its budget for fiscal year 2011 was around $8.1 billion. Various security experts including Bruce Schneier accused TSA for fostering a false sense of safety via harsh measures employed at the airports.

As for body search it is an abject humiliation and utter degradation for the humans to be stripped off their shoes, jewelry items, their purses, cell phones and even excessive clothing and walk half naked through the security door that might beep even if it was the belt that he forgot to tak off.

The 9/11 has changed the social environment and the mindset and world- view of a sizeable segment of American population to an appalling extent. Now even the American citizens carrying the American passports but having different pigment or color of skin are treated as potential suspects and therefore not trusted.

Gone are the days when one could walk though the security check points with such items as water, beverages, and food items without any fear of questioning or waylaying. One could go so close to the aircraft that only a wall barrier would be left between the passengers and the aircraft. Such was the carefree, easy, liberal and free environment of air traveling only a decade ago.

The conditions for traveling and the environment at the U.S. airports are rife with immense tension and stark apprehensions not only for the travelers but also for the staff posted on security check points. The passengers would remain under the nagging fright that despite their extreme precautions, there might be anything left in his baggage that could be used to profile them as potential terrorists or suspicious characters.

The immigration officers are repositories of absolute and unfettered powers to detain, deport or confine any passenger even without cogent grounds. One’s being elderly and those with family members should be taken as enough evidence that such people cannot be mischievous and dangerous. But there are no exceptions even for this category of harmless passengers.

In case of refusal to enter, there is no option available for remedy to the genuine passengers traveling either alone or with their families members. A passenger sent to the special rooms feels himself under the lurking fear and paranoid that his segregation and special questioning could result in his expulsion or deportation from the United States or he could be arrested as a potential terrorist.

It is invariably futile for the harried passengers to reason with the immigration officers and convince them about the legitimacy of the visit to the United States. It is primarily the whims and perfunctory assessment of the entry officers to grant or refuse entry to any person, no matter how genuine and justified the documents would be.

Occasionally some officers draw out sadistic satisfaction by using their immense powers to hold or detain a person even without any solid reason. The inspectors sometimes allegedly ridicule passengers; use racial and sexual taunts.

It would be heart- gripping to witness the show of authority and occasional mocking on the part of the officer in comparison to the helpless and traumatized passengers. One may also imagine the stark anguish of those passengers who for flimsy and frivolous reasons or mere doubts are refused entry and forced to take return flights.

In many instances, the panicked, nerve-shattered, terrified and absolutely helpless passengers had to miss the next connecting flight due to the enforced waiting period for clearance or refusal of the admission to enter. Those who have gone through this agonizing waiting period only can express how one suffers from two pangs of agonies simultaneously: one the overwhelming fear of denial to enter and second to miss the next flight.

These passengers may have to attend a time sensitive extremely crucial business meeting, reach their families for bereavement or funeral rites, join a wedding ceremony, take part in a graduation ceremony or attend a course of vital import, or to be present in a court hearing. The immigration staff is usually unconcerned about the nature of the visit as their entire focus is on finding some clue to prove the man was a suspect traveler.

In his article,” U.N. Report Cites Harassment at American Airports of Asylum Seekers” published in the New York Times some time back, the writer Rachell L Swarns mentions about a confidential report conducted by the United Nations in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security.

The report found that “airport inspectors with the power to summarily deport illegal immigrants have sometimes intimidated and handcuffed travelers fleeing persecution, discouraged some from seeking political asylum and often lacked an understanding of asylum law.”

There is a dire need to inject some modicum of sanity and rationale into the immigration procedures at the American airports. In case of a person who has been previously fingerprinted at the embassy or at the airport, the bizarre practice of taking his fingerprints again, and detained for intensive interrogation, should be stopped. His entire profile and background that is already in the system should be sufficient to verify his particulars on the spur of the moment.

The people who come to the United States carry genuine visas and get these visas on the strength of heavy and authentic documentation. So to suspect these previously traveling passengers and even the new ones under the suspicion that some of these might be trouble makers or so called terrorist is to cast doubts on the performance and ability of the concerned American embassies abroad.

The American embassies do not grant visas in the air. They do so after absolute satisfaction and procurement of voluminous documentation and thoroughly and comprehensively checking the background of the visa seekers.

Due to these stringent and rigorous immigration rules enforced after 9/11 incident, the quantum of visitors coming to the United States reportedly, has considerably dwindled. Also the enrolment of foreign students in American educational institutions has drastically decreased causing immense economic loss to them.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Battle lines are drawn

January 11, 2012

By Saeed Qureshi

So the battle lines are visibly drawn on Pakistan’s volatile political battlefield. The Prime Minister Gilani and the president of Pakistan and the co-chairperson of the majority party Pakistan People’s Party Asif Ali Zardari have, of late, come out with a studied posture of defiance against the Pakistan Army’s top brass and the supreme court of Pakistan headed by the inimitable chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

The Supreme Court has been coming down with a justifiably heavy hand on the questionable doings and wrong policies of the government with decisions that would be treated as land mark in the judicial history of not only Pakistan but that of the world. The NRO, the Swiss bank cases, the so called Memogate are some of those gubernatorial cases that have defiantly braced the sitting government against the superior judiciary.

The most bizarre and frightening dimension is the trading of recriminations between the army and the ruling leadership. The latest ISPR’s press release is loaded with a veiled warning and gives inkling as to how the army is readying itself to move if there could be a possibility of a takeover, though for holding premature elections. The Diaspora of political parties that are aligned with the government or opposed to it, are coming out with diverse statements either in favor of the government or else in support of the army and judiciary.

Tehrik-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan has resoundingly declared to stand by the Supreme Court. The PMNL seized by the paranoia of military takeover is, still reticent as what could be the best posture in the heat of this confrontation, Jamaat-e- Islami Chief Munawwar Hasan has virulently lashed out at the government and true to their past records would support the army.

While the PMNL would not want a military takeover, it would prefer to bank upon a constitutional strategy in order to bring about a parliamentary coup that could dislodge the government and force it to resign and announce new elections. The government is waiting for the senate elections to take place so that it could muster and generate enough strength to be able to withstand and foil a probable impeachment movement against the president of Pakistan if the imbroglio proceeds that long.

If the government can announce snap elections, the dark clouds that are hovering over its fate might be scattered for the time being. But still the NRO verdict would have to be complied with by any interim or the present government, whatever the case might be.

Equally would be the urgency and inevitability of fulfilling the judicial order for withdrawing the letter about the withdrawal of the Swiss cases and writing another one asking the Swiss courts to reopen the money scam cases of Asif Zardari.

The Memogate case that popped up from nowhere and has assumed as astounding dimensions will have to be driven to its logical conclusion. When the case would further proceed in judicial hearing and crystallize following the evidence of the main character Mansoor Ijaz, the court might be able to determine what could be the truth. In that case Hussain Haqqani and president Zardari would face dire consequences.

The major players in Pakistan’s spectrum: the army, the government and judiciary are now openly adopting confrontational and mutual despising postures to bring home the sordid fact that democratic set up has been thoroughly shaken and thrown overboard for which the government is primarily responsible due to ducking and dithering on judicial verdicts. The political parties and the parliamentarians have yet to come into the main tussle as to what roles they would play in the final countdown.

But the government has been in trouble and its credibility had remained at stake when president Zardari reneged on the commitments and the common goals outlined and agreed upon in various memorandums of understanding, one of which was ‘Charter of Democracy’ jointly signed by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif on May 14, 2006 in London. The other was the so called Murree Declaration inked by Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari in March 2008 for coalition government and restoration of judiciary.

Had the stipulations of the charters been allowed to be translated into meaningful and concrete follow up actions, the coalition of both the leading political parties would have been at the helm and consolidating the democratic edifice.But Mr. Zardari in a stunning demonstration of defiance and volte face broke those well defined goals and wriggled out by pleading that such papers or the accords were neither binding nor sacred like scriptures.

Thereafter, the PPP has been soliciting support from the fringe parties notably the ANP and the MQM to remain in power. The JUI walked out of the cobweb but in its place the PML (Q) was taken on board. The joining of the PML (Q) was patently an abject scratching of each other’s back.

The PPP wanted an ally to keep its parliamentary majority intact while the Chaudhry clan desperately needed their scion Moonis Ilahi to be let off the hook of a stupendous money making scam. Interestingly both parties previously, were the bitterest foes demeaning each other by using the vilest expletives.

So what one sows reaps the same. What goes around comes around are idioms that are hackneyed but robustly portray the sleazy demeanors of the political leaders that denude themselves in matters of serving their petty interests. They override the supreme national interests and sacrifice, the dignity, principles and morality they are expected to hold fast.

By antagonizing the leading institutions and also tormenting the civil society as well as the people of Pakistan through unsurpassed and bad governance, the government seems to be groping into a dark tunnel and has lost its rudder of legitimacy and as friends and genuine servants of the people. As far their bid to get a label of political martyrdom; that could have been possible if the government’s record were clean and its performance above board, commendable and a model of good and honest governance.

I am afraid in case of the government going down, whether by its own volition or elbowed out by the army or via a countrywide street agitation, the ministers and its top leaders will have to face a storm of legal cases to be instituted by the people and civil society members or by suo moto actions of the courts.

Already The Don Quixote of PPP and tongue lashing lancer Babar Awan is in deep trouble for his unwarranted attempt of ridiculing the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court cannot stomach the disgrace hurled at it by a minion of the government who not long ago was the law minister of the predictably tottering incumbent government.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

President Zardari was Evasive in his Interview

January 7, 2012

By Saeed Qureshi

In his first of its kind interview with GEO Television’s premier journalist and Capital Talk show’s anchor Hamid Mir, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari displayed an easy yet evasive posture. Hamid Mir reputed to be an adept media wizard in interviews with prominent figures loaded him with all sorts of intriguing and nagging questions.

Yet president Zardari looked unruffled and exhibited a non- challant countenance as if he was neither interested nor frustrated with the tough nature of questions as well as the scathing tone and tenor of the otherwise a polite interviewer.

The interview came after the lull of a long time and perhaps for the first time from a head of state who was exceedingly controversial and has been in the eye of storm of serious allegations ranging from colossal corruption to sowing a politics of intrigues and deviousness in Pakistan.

His interview exuded a cumulative impression as if the whole world was on the wrong side and he and his party were treading the right track and serving the nation of Pakistan in an exemplary manner.

He ruled out any tussle with the opposition parties, with the judiciary and even with the armed forces of Pakistan. While even the novices of Pakistani politics were crying foul about the gross and unprecedented mismanagement of Pakistan’s affairs, president Zardari dilated on Benazir’s Income Support Program that in his view was changing the destinies of the downtrodden and would turn a new leaf in the economic and social well being of the poor people of Pakistan.

Of the host of biting questions, those about army’s complicity in harboring Osama bin laden’s covert stay in Abbottabad and Haqqani involvement in the so called Memogate scandal were paramount but were either parried by the president or were answered in a counter-question manner.

When asked why army was implicitly blamed by his government for Osama’s clandestine sojourn in a place near Kakul Academy, the president deflected its onus by pointing out that it was alluded to the former president Musharraf and not to the incumbent army hierarchy.

The counter question about Haqqani projected involvement in the memo gate scandal, president Zardari shot back by pleading that if he( Haqqani) was in league with Mansoor Ijaz then why he should come all the way to Pakistan to take to legal recourse.

He completely absolved himself of even knowing Mansoor Ijaz who has rudely jolted the sitting government in Pakistan. Mr. Ijaz an American citizen claims that Hussain Haqqani and Asif Zardari were both involved in the drafting and sending of the Memo to president Obama’s former national security advisor James Jones.

President Zardari categorically ruled out any compliance of the apex court's verdict to write a letter to the Swiss courts for reopening the so called Swiss bank account cases that primarily focus on both late Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari. He took shelter behind the off- repeated plea that reopening of the Swiss bank cases was tantamount to the trial of late Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto and her grave; adding that the PPP would never allow that.

He argued that fundamentally these cases were instituted against her late spouse and not him and thus were essentially to denigrate her. He however, mooted the proposition that once he was out of the presidency, the next government could pursue those cases and do whatever they would like.

President Zardari shuffled his answers between two hats that he is wearing as the chairman of the PPP and being the president of Pakistan. When the crafty anchor would remind him of a pledge or declaration that he made but was not honored, or not well taken by the people, he would dismiss it by saying that he did so as the chairman of the party and not the head of the state.

Was he trying to hedge under the party’s chairmanship by giving an impression that the party chairman’s decisions could run counter to those that would be taken as the head of state? More often than not he would place many debatable decisions in the basket of the parliament which he ruled was independent and sovereign.

He thought that the institutions and national building departments such as PIA, Railways, Steel Mills and WAPDA were not going to dogs but were weakening and could be rehabilitated. Referring to his frequent visits to China, he expressed his robust hope that with those links that he established there, would bring fruit in the longer run and Pakistan would reap huge economic benefits out of those.

About the relationship with India, he highlighted his interaction with the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with whom he claimed to have raised the water question that in his view if not decided amicably, would assume monstrous proportions for both the neighbors in future and would spell disaster for their economies.

He mockingly downplayed the sudden surge of Imran Khan on Pakistan’s political horizon by childishly comparing it with PPP”s legendry founder late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He argued that while Mr. Bhutto rallied around him the downtrodden and underdogs of the society, the PTI chairman was embracing the renegades, opportunists and runaways from other parties who were crooks and merely joined him for selfish motives.

It was a myopic analogy by president Zardari because to preempt that all those who are joining the PTI would turn out to be swindlers and self serving villains were naivety and a simplistic denouement against a budding leader.

Moreover, Mr. Bhutto emerged in a different set of circumstances that happen once in centuries. It was dismemberment of Pakistan, although he had already formed his party. But to claim that all rank and files in his party were commoners would not be an objective assessment.

Also it is primarily not the categories of humans or their social standing but the sincerity of purpose that can come from any person rich or poor, low or high. Mr. Bhutto later expelled all his pioneering revolutionaries and fell back in the company of Sardars, aristocrats, elites, oligarchs, feudals and high class thugs.

President Zardari told the interviewer that his party would contest the next elections on Mr. ZA Bhutto’s famous slogan of "Roti, Kapra and Makan". When Hamid Mir pointed that people were suffering from a deluge of problems with no water, no power, no gas and no Roti, how the people would again believe in his party, president Zardari referred to Farzana Raja’s income program and insisted on showing clip of her speech to prove that people were very well off now.

When asked as to why the reference about the retrial of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was being sent to the supreme court now while it was not done so during the two stints of Benazir Bhutto’s as prime minister, president Zardari evaded an elaborate answer and responded by merely saying that she wanted to do but could not do so.

About the PPP leaders notably Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza and Shah Mehmood Qureshi leaving the Pakistan People’s Party, the president dished out his point of view that merited more elaboration. To the public allegation of Shah Mehmood that Pakistan’s Atomic program was not safe in the hands of president Zardari, he disclosed that the nuclear regime was not under him anymore and was transferred to the parliament already.

The unique interview which was eagerly watched by the people in and out of Pakistan left many questions marks than clearing the fog of apprehensions and allegations about the performance of the incumbent coalition government and the murky conduct of the leaders now ruling the roost.

Population Explosion Turning Pakistan into a Slum

January 5, 2012

By Saeed Qureshi

Do Pakistan’s planners and economic managers ever realize that the fast growing population is the biggest threat to the sustained development of that country? The pace of development is out of sync with the unremitting growth of population that of late has reached a staggering mark of 187 million.

The birth rate outpaces the death rate with 31 births and 8 deaths per thousand. For every thousand individuals Pakistan has to feed 23 more mouths every year. Food already getting scarce, the utilities, housing, roads, jobs, health facilities, water, power, educational institutions have to be proportionately created for the burgeoning population.

The trend of urbanization is taking its toll on the living conditions and environment in the cities. The rural areas being grossly neglected for development of infrastructure and provision of basic facilities, the rural dwellers migrate to the towns and cities where they take up menial and small jobs for survival.

The earning members have to carry the burden of their family members some of whom may also join in the odd jobs they seek to pool the cost of living. The statistics tell us that 36 percent population lives in big cities while 50 per cent population resides in towns with roughly 5000 thousands population or over.

The migrants create shanty towns, or occupy inhabited or odd places to live with several members huddled in a small room made from unbaked bricks or mud. The Pakistan’s cities suffer from inadequacy of utility and social services such as gas, water, electricity, health, education and good public transportation system. The uninhibited trend is to build houses anywhere without approval of the local government or municipalities.

One can witness the ugly and haphazard growth of ramshackle shanty towns or even modesty good houses coming up around the main cities such as Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Karachi presents the worst scenario as far grabbing of land and expansion of small settlements and colonies around the cities are concerned. These makeshift colonies are cordoning the cities with filth and dirt and sewerage flowing in the unpaved lanes with swarming worms and flies.

In the absence of a proper and pre-planned town planning, the houses constructed haphazardly, do not have a wider access to move and thus small, narrow lanes and uneven dirt paths are used as approach connections to the houses. Now wherever one builds house of free will and without as we call zoning rules, the access road and provision of electricity and running tap water and gas connections take years before these are piecemeal provided.

It would be interesting to note that in 1951 when both East and West Pakistan were together, Pakistan’s population was around 30 million which at present stands at 180 million alone in West wing now Pakistan. While population has mushroomed exponentially, the resources to cater for the needs of the growing population have not been correspondingly created.

Pakistan is replete with huge natural resources one of which are huge coal deposits But woefully these were not utilized by mining and thus there is acute scarcity of fuel and gas and electricity that could be produced by using coal.

The construction of dams both for irrigation and power generations were always kept on back burners for a variety of untenable reasons. The Kalabagh dam that should have been now functioning for decades was left in lurch due to provincial bickering and thus no government could pick up the courage to complete this very vital project.
We have mayhem situation in Pakistan.

There is an unremitting and unprecedented chaos all over. The industrial sector is being shut down; the people are using firewood to cook food and to warm their houses. We are moving back towards the primitive ages. The agricultural crops are not enough to feed the people. The entire system of governance and provision of essential utilities on sustained bases has been in doldrums.

With the fast growing population which is the easiest pastime for a jobless person, the country has passed into the phase of horrendous backwardness. See our roads, our buses and markets places full of encroachments with animals stalking the roads. Can one believe this is a state that came into being only six decades ago and looks like a medieval land?

The unchecked growth of population is a sure recipe for unemployment, lawlessness, poverty, breaking down of institutions, corruption, environmental degradation, poor quality of life, the spread of diseases, and the loss of hope for a better future among the public. When resources are scarce and demand gets higher and higher by the day, the people would resort to crimes, stealing, and robbing, killing and even prostitution.

The edicts of the religious clergy that population control was a sin should be ignored as these demagogues have no alternatives to give food to the entire population nor have any plan to provide basic needs, utilities and services to the teeming millions.

It is critically important that emergent measures should be taken to cap the wild and unrestrained proliferation of the population in Pakistan. Otherwise beside the poverty graph going up, there can be riots all over country which are already sporadically taking place in Pakistan.

It is up to the authorities and the respective governments in Pakistan as to how they bridle and control the population explosion for better life of the citizens. There are many research documents and studies that are internationally available and also in Pakistan which if implemented earnestly and with full force of law, the population can be restrained.

Thus there will be less new humans to be taken care in several ways from housing to medical care and jobs and provision of basic needs both in terms of social services and public utilities. That situation would take off an enormous load on the government exchequer as well as lessen the burgeoning socio-economic problems.

It is foregone that the people with less socio-economic hazards and minimum public service irritants can be more productive than those reeling under abject and degrading living conditions.

Provincial Autonomy and More Provinces in Pakistan

January 3, 2012

By Saeed Qureshi

Pakistan must have as many more provinces as possible. The existing four provinces are like four states within a state. These four big administrative units create regional and provincial friction bordering on hatred. Ever since the creation of Pakistan, one of the overriding hurdles in the way of coveted national cohesion and unity are these administrative elephantine units that vie and remain at loggerheads with each other.

With a separate language of each province, the four separate nationalities look conspicuously distinct. Besides it creates communication barriers between the people with less or no knowledge of the national language Urdu.

The fruits of devolution of powers are universally known for balanced and effective development of both rural and urban areas of a country on one side and the backward and advanced areas on the other. In big units as we have in Pakistan, the major chunks of allocation of funds go to those cities or towns from which the politicians or the members of the parliament come.

Even otherwise in Pakistan, the rural development has mostly remained neglected as most of the development funds are spent in the urban settlements. For better utilization of resources and quick development more provinces should be created.

The long-standing demands for decentralization of power should be actually fulfilled by transferring more powers to the provinces and from provinces to the local bodies.
Unfortunately, due to rampant corruption and lack of effective accountability, the funds are misused and misappropriated. The development projects sometimes exist on the paper only.

The quality of work on building roads and other projects in Pakistan is woefully inferior. The oversight and strict compliance of codes and regulations are more often than not, violated and breached with connivance of the bureaucracy and government officials.

The scams and scandals, the nepotism and favoritism in doling out contracts, permits and lucrative licenses are given mostly to the party members, friends, and kith or to those who grease the palms of the members of the officialdom, bureaucracy and the parliament members.

The social and civic development remains largely confined to the big cities. The people have to travel all the way to the provincial capitals to meet the provincial assembly members at a big financial cost and time.

Pakistan, even after 60 years of its existence, is devoid of highways between major cities and an efficient railway system. The people suffer from poor, inadequate or deficient civic utilities. The political chaos takes it spillover toll on the quality of life.

The availability of sustained water and power, solid waste disposal, health, education, orderly traffic and good transportation that are components of good city management and a smooth civic life have remained woefully unrealized. The quality of life in Pakistan is abysmally low.

In comparison to Pakistan, Bangladesh that separated from the West Pakistan in 1971, despite being much smaller in area (56000 sq miles to 340000 sq miles of Pakistan) has 6 provinces and 64 districts. Bangladesh has a system of distribution of resources and funds for development that is much transparent, grass root and effective than Pakistan because the money is spread over more administrative units and therefore is spent on a vast area. India has 28 provinces and 610 districts.

In comparison Pakistan has four big federating units and only 127 districts. It would be a breakthrough and a milestone step forward if the present four provinces are partitioned into smaller provinces. The inhabitants of the new provinces would benefits in the following manner:

1.They won’t look up to the provincial capitals and the politicians sitting there to send them the funds.
2.With the decentralization and devolution of powers, the people of smaller units can make their own decisions locally and undertake the development and progress that they deem suitable.
3.It would create more sense of participation by people because of more provincial governments and political freedom.
4.With more courts in the new provinces the perennial backlog of pending cases would be speedily decided.

More provinces will lessen the prevailing acrimony and mutual apprehensions and tension between the four provinces. It would readily assuage the sense of deprivation and discrimination nursed by the smaller provinces against the big province which in this case is Punjab.

At present provinces of Balochistan, Sindh, NWFP, harbor a host of grievances against Punjab that range from taking more share of funds to the undue use of water as well as because of the army whose bulk comes from Punjab. Punjab is the target of complaints and grudge of other provinces for being a privileged province as was West Pakistan compared to the former East Pakistan.

East Pakistan’s cessation (for Bengalis independence) could have been averted if the Eastern wing of Pakistan had been fairly and equitably treated. Similar kind of threat and danger of disintegration looms over Pakistan now and that can be averted or removed if more provinces are carved out of the existing ones.

The long standing demands of many regions with common language and ethnic bonds such as Siraiki belt and Hazara could be met by creation of more provinces. The population of Hazara region wants to separate from the Pushto speaking parts of NWFP (now Pakhtunkhwa Khyber) because their language is Pahari, a mixed dialect of Pushto and Punjabi.

Siraiki speaking people want to have a separate province because they look different from both Sindh and Punjab as for their language and culture is concerned. The FATA (the federally administered tribal areas) can be converted into a separate province. The valleys of Chitral, Swat, Hunza, and Dir each can also be given separate status of provinces.

Such considerations as common folklore, common language or dialect, common ethnic and cultural milieu and administrative efficiency should be kept in view in creating more provinces. The increase in the number of provinces would help alleviate the inter-provincial friction that so apparently exists now between the four provinces.

As enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan, it is time to give the promised autonomy to the provinces. While the provincial autonomy is a long standing demand and is the constitutional right of the provinces, the powers in the concurrent list that are due to provinces, should be transferred to them.

Already MQM that holds sway in Karachi and other urban areas of Sindh has categorically called for provincial autonomy, which in their view means only the portfolios of foreign relation, currency and defense should be left with the center.

Such a demand should also be a priority issue with other provinces and the sooner it is accepted the better it would be for the harmonious relationship between provinces and federation on one hand and between the federating units on the other.

Once the question of creation of more provinces and transfer of the promised powers to the provinces is addressed, the stability of Pakistan can be guaranteed. Otherwise the clash of interests would keep the center and provinces in mutual bickering and feuding. The break-away feelings and insurgency that is going on in Balochistan can be nailed and quelled, once and for all, if the constitutional obligation of devolution of powers to provinces is fulfilled.

The incumbent democratic government of PPP has also committed in their party manifesto to grant provincial autonomy. It is a pledge whose time to be translated into reality has come. It would be a feather in the cap of the sitting government if it takes this revolutionary and momentous measure that would irrefutably ensure the viability of the state of Pakistan.

Let the PPP government prove that it was capable of taking far reaching decisions in the best interest of the people of Pakistan. Let it prove that Pakistan is bound to stay and is not a failed state.

There can be a quid pro quo in sharing powers with the provinces. But essentially as is the practice and custom with other federations around the world, most of the powers must reside with the constituent geographical units. United States of America is one country where such a remarkable model for division of powers is in vogue. The states (provinces) are almost independent in running their local governments. This model can be followed in Pakistan as far as possible.

The provincial autonomy once given would relieve the center of the bureaucratic over-lordship. The function of the center would be to make policy decisions and with the coordination of the provinces implement these. The shifting of most of the ministries to the provincial domain would alleviate enormous administrative and financial load on the center.

So it is also in the interest of the center to go ahead with the settlement of the lingering question of provincial autonomy which together with the creation of more provinces would catapult the much coveted paradigm of good governance in Pakistan. Such a landmark decision would undoubtedly put Pakistan on the road to economic prosperity and socio- political stability.

After All Zardari is the President of Pakistan

December 9, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

If the detractors of Asif Ali Zardari do not respect him as a person let them at least venerate the office he is holding. Simultaneously he is the chairman of the leading political party in Pakistan whose services to the country have not been excelled by any other party. The parties like individuals face phases of rise and fall and fame and decline.

The PPP is passing through the same cycle but hopefully, would come out of this dismal situation with a new vigor and commitment and fall back on its original track of devotion to the cause of the downtrodden.

The political brinkmanship and bickering takes odious forms in a country like Pakistan where the race for power assumes monstrous proportions through vilifying and character assassination of the rivals. Now in democracies, there should be a modicum of mutual tolerance and respect even if a dispensation stumbles in coming up to the expectations of the people.

PPP has been mauled for almost three decades by the overbearing establishment. As such it could not deliver and implement its revolutionary program for the benefit of the common people. It speaks for the resilience and inherent strength of this party that every time; it braved the vicious and ferocious storms with exceptional poise and resilience.

If there were other parties in the same horrendous situations and had been bludgeoned for a prolonged period of time, these would have vanished from the political scene of Pakistan or would have turned into fringe and insignificant political outfits. But after every malady and crisis, the PPP has resurged with added vigor, renewed spirit and vibrant determination.

Its two illustrious and lofty leaders, who still rule the hearts and minds of the majority in Pakistan, were assassinated. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had fallen victim to a malicious and partisan judicial process and Benazir Bhutto was murdered by the dark forces that would not want her to lead the country with a watershed agenda for change.

To allege that her spouse the incumbent head of state was somehow involved is her assassination is outright false and negates the commonsense. At a time when Benazir Bhutto was killed in Rawalpindi, even the best of sorcerer or pundit could not predict if the PPP would win the elections in case a democratic process was to be set in motion by the military establishment under general Musharraf.

At that time, the political situation was in a melting pot and was brewing up to be crystallized in due course. Benazir Bhutto was intelligent enough to foresee that she was vulnerable and could be removed by the vengeful opponents and therefore had to nominate a successor in her will. The full text of that document could be revealed on the order of the court if someone makes such a request. Benazir Bhutto did not want the PPP to fall apart in case she was removed from the political scene of Pakistan.

But the will and nomination of a successor is besides the issue that we are analyzing in this article. If the PPP rank and file has accepted Mr. Zardari as the president of the party then it is entirely the party’s internal matter. If the PPP can manage to elect the chairman through a proper voting procedure then the nomination lacuna would also be washed off.

In due course of time the allegations of corruption against Mr. Zardari would be taken up by the court which in fact has made considerable progress after the detailed verdict of the apex court on the NRO. Now if the government moves ahead by withdrawing the previous letter of closing the Swiss cases, there could be further revelation whether Mr. Zardari have done something wrong and he deposited money in the Swiss banks or not. It would be prudent for antagonists to wait for the outcome of the legal process.

As for cutting short the tenure of the government, it would be better to wait for the next elections and let the people decide through the ballot which party they would like to rule the country. That is the only legitimate recourse to determine the right or wrong performance of a government.

Thus far somehow despite heavy and countless odds, to keep intact the edifice of the democracy despite poor governance, alone is a laudable achievement of the present government. The political acumen of president Zardari in forging new political alignments must be appreciated and applauded as he has proven that he was always ahead in browbeating the other contenders in the political arena..

The political game in Pakistan has never been played on leveled grounds. It has remained subject to rough and tough conditions and personal and clannish animosities. As such the political process moves forward though with jerks and jolts. To keep the PPP in power by weaving and working out alignments and coalitions with such unpredictable and recalcitrant parties as ANP and MQM is not a mean achievement. At least with such arrangements the cart of democracy is moving forward.

The bad governance and corruption is endemic and seeped into the very body politic of Pakistan. If we claim it’s only the PPP whose ministers and leadership is corrupt then it would be a partisan and unrealistic denouement. All sections of society, all branches of governments, all institutions, and the top brass of the country sitting in influential and high profile slots have been corrupt all along. Are there not stories of corruption and misuse of power about parliamentarians, the senators, the bureaucrats the army generals and so on?

In Pakistan the politics has been mostly overwhelmed by jingoism. There are invariably hard sentiments and fixed stances between the people in power and those out of it. The tussle boils down to one baneful motive: to pull down a sitting government by hook or crook even it means undermining the democratic culture and imposing the military dictatorship.

No government has ever been popular and fully supported by the people in Pakistan. General Ziaul-Haq was despised for obvious reasons. Nawaz Sharif remained under the burden of disparagement for his dictatorial disposition and for falling out with judiciary and army. The PPP that came to power by the masses support was bitterly opposed by the political adversaries as well as the army and the bureaucracy.

So to single out PPP for all the misdeeds under the sun would be too biased an opinion for the vendetta-filled political counterparts who would want a military rule over the country but not a political dispensation that despite its drawbacks should still be preferable and far better for the country.

Presently, the Press and judiciary enjoy absolute freedom in Pakistan. The civil society is active and on the move. The elections are drawing near and the political forces are gearing up for that. The people enjoy the freedom to vent their enraged feelings and outrage in rallies and demonstrations without any hostile or stern retaliation from the government. These are the fruits of democracy and shining aspects that we all enjoy because of an elected government that despite many shortcomings allows civil liberties, dissent and debate.

We should not be impatient to invite undemocratic forces to push this government down the hill. In another year or two, through fresh elections a new government, with the will and vote of the people, will step in. That would be for the first time that a civilian democratic government would complete the constitutional tenure of five years.

Would that not be the brightest and most spectacular achievement that the present government would be entitled to? The demand for snap elections may satisfy the urge and expediency of the opposition to snatch power but would deprive the duly elected government of its constitutional right to rule for the stipulated period.