I am not very happy with the recent reshuffling in the cabinet by the Prime Minister. Not because it is a bad move, but because it is a senseless move. First and foremost, it is a decision which has been taken on populist pressure rather than caused by necessity. The media, tonga parties and rejected parties made a lot of noise and orchestrated the change, which was always needed but not on the basis of populist chants. The change in cabinet has created a certain rift in the PPP, and this rift is not by accident but by design. Let’s analyze how it was by design:
- There were some ministers against whom there was always noise. We all know who they are: Makhdoom Amin Fahim (because of the recent corruption cases in NICL, TCP etc), Rehman Malik, Babar Awan and Khursheed Shah to be very specific. They have been retained
- There were some ministers who were in the firing line for a long time and they have been removed. Simply stated it was Raja Pervez Ashraf.
- There were some ministers who were kind of balanced and decent in the way they were operating. They were Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nazar Gondal and Shah Mehmood Qureshi
- And finally there are some who got their lottery: an unruly Firdous Ashiq Awan, Hina Rabbani Khar and Makhdoom Shahabuddin.
I want to write specifically about Shah Mahmood Qureshi. SMQ is a very balanced political leader who has roots in his constituency. He has been elected regularly since 1988 (barring 1997) and was a pivotal Nazim of Multan during the 2001-2002 period. His presence was important in the recovery of the party from Southern Punjab in the 2002 elections and subsequently his role as President PPP Punjab paid dividends in the 2008 elections. He was urbane and suave and till now there was no allegation of corruption against him. He was a charming person who could have been a face of Pakistan. Well spoken and very presentable. The only blots I can see on him are his traditional roots into the military establishment (his father was Governor Punjab during Zia’s rule) and going soft on military during his three years as FM.
Some charges that make sense include:
- His going hawkish when SM Krishna visited Pakistan in July 2010. His statement of “Krishna was on the phone during talks i.e. seeking guidance from New Delhi”, was termed as a wrecker of talks
- As the President visited UK and France during early August 2010, there was a populist move that talked about the visit in a bad light while the country was ravaged by floods. SMQ as FM didn’t visit along with the President and did not issue any statement in support of the President.
- And then off course, the recent Raymond Davis issue brought to light an ugly face of not standing with your own party’s government. By staying quiet and prolonging the matter to current 18 days, the naysayers got much more credence to their assertions that Raymond Davis is not a diplomat and hence not immune to criminal prosecution.
Off course, some may expanded the differences between the PPP and Shah Mehmood Qureshi but being a political government which has become mature because of all the difficulties faced, the matter should have been resolved in a better and amicable manner. Just like Gen. Kayani is extended to stay till 2013 while the CJ is assured of his stay as the proverbial pain in the back till 2013, then SMQ who happens to be a politician and was holding a critical slot as Foreign Minister, he could have continued till the government was there. Instead of getting rid of more tainted people like Babar Awan who has negated all possible moves for the repeal of blasphemy law, or Rehman Malik who has been supporting a certain political party in Karachi or those ministers who’s time has been plagued with corruption charges, the PPP has chosen to get rid of a person who could have been considered a lesser evil (I say this because all PPP walas and Jiyalas are evil no. 1).
I personally feel that it is a management failure on part of the PPP and it will only give more support to those who have finding one reason or the other to taint the party and get rid of the current government.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi could have brought his ego down a little while the PPP top team could have been more considerate. In essence, the PPP has lost a very positive and accomplished leader who had a clean background.