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March in March – by Ahsan Abbas Shah

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Ahsan Abbas Shah


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  • The speech he needs to make By Syed Talat Hussain | From the Newspaper http://www.dawn.com/2011/02/21/the-speech-he-needs-to-make.html How exactly has this underworld come about and how vast and widespread it is are queries on which the out-of-cabinet, out-in-the-cold former foreign minister could have informed the people of Pakistan, but chose not to. In fact, all bets are that he would never do that. Haloed never rock the boat. Unassuming fakirs do. Mr Qureshi is not going to upstage his goodwill with Washington`s powerbrokers by crossing the fine line that divides US friends from foes, which, these days, includes everyone who dares ask an even remotely probing question about the US role in Pakistan. Moreover, he himself has been an indefatigable defender of deepening the very type of ties with the US, whose one manifestation he now finds unbearable. (It is amazing that the procedural matter of disclosing Davis`s real status has become one that can both shape and destroy political careers. This can only happen in Pakistan.)
    Many of the challenges facing Pakistan in its relations with the US are mentioned in a detailed fashion in the Kerry Lugar Bill whose most energetic advocate was Mr Qureshi himself.

  • Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s performance at his press conference on February 16 deserved a curtain call. His vocation should have been the stage, rather than politics. The affected manner, the dramatic pauses, the contrived humility, letting his expression suggest what words cannot, the fact that he did not actually cry while he made his audience think that he was crying were all expressions of that neurotic impulse that actors develop for the stage. Perhaps if Qureshi really wants to be taken seriously, he should quit acting because that would be a sign of maturity.

  • Winners and losers

    Najam Sethi Editorial

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    he 45-day deadline given to the Zardari government for carrying out major economic and political reforms by Nawaz Sharif has ended in deadlock. The PMLN’s chief negotiator, Ishaq Dar, says enigmatically that “some glasses are only half full, others are empty.”

    Consequently, Mr Sharif has embarked on the campaign trial, relishing the rhetorical chants of “Damadam Mast Qalandar” from excited party supporters. The PMLN is also ready to chuck out the PPP from its coalition government in the Punjab and embrace the so-called Unification Block of 47 turncoats, or lotas, of the PMLQ to keep its Assembly majority intact. The Speaker has accordingly allotted separate seats to them as the “real” PMLQ.

    But the PPP isn’t twiddling its thumbs. Mr Zulfikar Mirza, l’enfant terrible of the party, has lashed out at the PMLN. He’s the bad cop, along with the likes of Babar Awan. The good cop is the prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, who is trying to draw Mr Sharif away from street agitation for an early election. Chaudhry Zaheeruddin, leader of the PPP in the Punjab assembly, has also challenged the Unification Block’s right to split from the PMLQ without being disqualified from parliament as per law.

    At stake are two critical issues that have a bearing on the prospects of the two mainstream parties contending for power. These are the PMLN’s demands for a truly independent or neutral Election Commission and National Accountability Bureau. But the PPP cannot concede these wittingly without playing itself out of the game – the NAB certainly stands in the way of implementing the National Reconciliation Ordinance corruption cases against President Zardari and other PPP stalwarts while the EC is a balancing factor of sorts vis a vis higher court judges who are inclined to tilt in favour of the PMLN that helped restore them to power nearly two years ago.

    This factor should not be glossed over. The Punjab government is hanging on to power on the basis of a dubious “stay order” by the Supreme Court against a judgment of the Lahore High Court (LHC) supported by the EC disqualifying CM Shahbaz Sharif from being a member of parliament. The status of the PMLQ lotas – and therefore of the PMLN Punjab government – is also in contention. The LHC has asked the Speaker of the Punjab Assembly to approach the EC and resolve this issue. But the Speaker is refusing to budge. An appeal against the Speaker is “pending” in the LHC – another de facto “stay”, as it were, favouring the Punjab government. It may be recalled that in 2002, a PPP MNA, Chaudhry Zafar Iqbal Warriach, had to resign his seat and contest a by-election in order to be legally entitled to switch over to the PMLQ. But when Saba Sadiq, a PMLQ member of the Punjab Assembly, violated the law by voting against the party’s position, the Speaker refused to forward a complaint against her to the EC and the LHC declined to give any relief to the PMLQ. Since this is a harbinger of what to expect by way of justice from the Speaker or the LHC, the PPP obviously thinks it is within its reciprocal rights to give a hard time to the PMLN on the question of the EC and NAB.

    If Mr Sharif insists on launching street agitation for regime change in Islamabad and throws out the PPP from the Punjab government by clutching at the Unification Block for survival, there will be trouble, especially if the courts continue to tilt against the PPP, destroying their credibility. Much more worrying, however, is the impact of such squabbling on the credibility and sustainability of “democracy” and the mainstream politicians who are constantly undermining it.

    Mr Sharif should not overlook another critical factor. In a free and fair election, there is no certitude that the PMLN would win a majority in Islamabad, given the established vote banks of the PPP in Sindh, MQM in Karachi, ANP in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the independent tribal leaders in Balochistan and FATA. Punjab itself could be divided between Southern, Central and Northern regions and the anti-PPP vote split among the Jamaat i Islami, Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf, PLMQ and PMLN.

    If the PPP is compelled to order a fresh election, that would leave the issue of NAB and EC reform hanging in the air. President Zardari would form a pro-PPP caretaker government. The PMLN won’t accept it. The courts will then be petitioned to resolve such issues. What if, in the interests of their credibility and ambitions, they should decide to postpone the elections and support a medium term caretaker regime of technocrats that is hostile to both the PPP and PMLN in deference to the anti-politician wave developing in the country?

    In the event, Mr Zardari’s loss may not turn out to be Mr Sharif’s gain. Therefore the latter would be advised to extend the deadline for reform while maintaining pressure that would help rather than derail the two-party system. An orderly and sustainable political transition for better governance is the need of the hour. Political instability will breed anarchy and violence, hurt the economy and country and give a heads-up to the invisible and visible soldiers of “political Islam”.