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Some predictions for the new year – by Dr Syed Mansoor Hussain

Old predictions and new

The 17th Amendment will eventually go this year but not until the PPP, without whose parliamentary support no new amendment can be passed, has extracted its ‘pound of flesh’ (and blood) from the N-League leadership

My first article for this newspaper in the new year is about predictions I made the previous year, how right I was, and then my predictions for the new year.

So, first my predictions about the last year (Old predictions and new, Daily Times, January 5, 2009). I was right that Mr Zardari will remain president and Mr Gilani will continue as prime minister. I was also right about the provincial governments, especially in my assessment that Mr Shahbaz Sharif will continue as chief minister of Punjab with a functionally minority PML-N government.

I was right in predicting that the Indian government will refrain from taking any direct action against Pakistan as retaliation for the Mumbai massacres.

I was right in predicting that the Taliban would lose support of the majority of Pakistani people if they continued their terrorist attacks on civilians.

I was right in predicting that the Punjab government would somehow ban basant once again, a remarkable example of ideological concurrence between the previous Q-League government and the present N-League government. I was also right about load shedding ending only if Pakistan completely ran out of electricity — with no loads to shed, there would obviously be no load shedding.

However, I was completely wrong about the Chief Justice (CJ) not being reinstated. And I was also wrong in believing that President Obama would not escalate the US involvement in Afghanistan.

Here goes for this year. First, the easy ones: President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and all the chief ministers and provincial governments will stay essentially where they are right now. Of these, the only person who might be at risk is PM Gilani, but I believe that he will continue in his present position barring any major political crisis that I cannot foresee at this point.

Basant of course will again be cancelled, but the Lahoris will find some outlet for their irrepressible urge to celebrate spring.

Now to the more dicey predictions. The CJ and the higher courts will settle down into a state of ‘judicial restraint’ after their initial activist exuberance of the past year. The fallout of the disappearing National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) will however escalate, slowly but surely, and some of the former ‘beneficiaries’ of this law will either be forced out of government for good or at least be forced to resign until such time that that they are cleared by the courts or settle with the authorities.

The recipients of major loans that were ‘forgiven’ during successive past governments will be the next major category of people to be brought under investigation. This investigation must involve a much wider class of political ‘operatives’ otherwise charges of party-specific victimisation on the part of the higher courts will become a valid concern.

About other political forecasts, the 17th Amendment will eventually go this year but not until the PPP, without whose parliamentary support no new amendment can be passed, has extracted its ‘pound of flesh’ (and blood) from the N-League leadership. I do not believe that Mian Nawaz Sharif will contest for a national assembly seat as long as the 17th Amendment is still in place. A precursor to the repeal of the 17th Amendment in my opinion will be the return of the PPP as an active part of the Punjab government.

Since I do not see any ‘mid-term’ elections happening this year, therefore I do not foresee any important structural changes in any of the major political parties this year either (sorry Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan!). Most importantly, the pipe dream of a ‘national government’ will remain as such. Frankly, we already have pretty much a representative national government, since the coalition at the centre represents all the major political parties from all the provinces with the exception of the PML-N.

Now to some non-political matters. The most important sideshow going on right now in Punjab is the escalating confrontation between the physicians on one side and the Punjab government and the senior judiciary on the other. Already, many physicians are refusing to take care of sick patients for fear of being accused under the criminal procedure code (CPC) in case the patients don’t do well. This trend must be interrupted or else it will have severe consequences for healthcare delivery in the province.

So, I predict that some form of healthcare legislation will be passed this year that de-criminalises medical ‘malpractice’ with a simultaneous increase in surveillance of private medical centres and of the lax ‘certification’ process of private medical colleges and universities and of their graduates. The rapid increase of ‘for-profit’ medical colleges is a serious threat to the future of medical care in the province and must be scrutinised properly.

Concerning load shedding, I actually believe that by the end of this year it will really become much less of a problem. Here, foreign aid under the Kerry-Lugar Bill and foreign direct investment will play an important role in improving the power production capability within the country, though improvement in the state of law and order will be an important prerequisite before this can be accomplished.

And this brings me to the most important problem facing the country at this time. It is my considered belief that the recent spate of terrorist activity will settle down as the Pakistan army continues to put pressure on the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). However, the most important factor is going to be an escalating abhorrence for the terrorists among the people of Pakistan. If the leadership of the PML-N finally accepts that controlling terrorism is more important than repealing the 17th Amendment and comes fully on board, then it will become easier to mobilise public opinion against the terrorists.

About the US ‘surge’ in Afghanistan. I do not think it will succeed in pacifying Afghanistan, but it might relieve some pressure on Pakistan, as more of the Taliban along the border will join the fight in Afghanistan.

And no, I do not think that the Chief of Army Staff will get an extension.

Syed Mansoor Hussain has practised and taught medicine in the US. He can be reached at smhmbbs70@yahoo.com

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  • Assemblies are my political weapons, says Zardari

    * President says he will foil all conspiracies with his ‘weaponry’
    * Says some quarters employing unconstitutional methods to remove him from Presidency

    LAHORE/KARACHI: President Asif Ali Zardari has billed the elected assemblies as his “political weapons”, and said he would “foil all conspiracies” through his weaponry.

    In an interview with BBC Urdu, the president said, “We are politicians, and will solve all the problems in a political manner.”

    He said he believed in the supremacy of the masses, as both houses of parliament and the four provincial assemblies were the “true forums of their power”.

    Zardari said he was a constitutionally-elected president, but “some circles” had been employing unconstitutional methods to remove him from the Presidency. However, he did not identify the quarters trying to remove him.

    The president made the comments the very day the Balochistan Assembly passed a confidence motion, while the Sindh Assembly has already approved a similar resolution. Close presidential aides have said that the NWFP Assembly would soon follow course, and they would also try to table confidence resolutions in the National Assembly and the Punjab Assembly.

    The president has already called separate sessions of the Senate and National Assembly on January 11.

    While Zardari has repeatedly warned over the week that democracy is in danger, he says he can deal with “such conspiracies”.

    Most political analysts are viewing these comments as a reference to the army or the establishment. But presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar says the president has been referring to “anti-Bhutto elements”.

    Separately, presiding over a meeting at Sindh Chief Minister’s House, Zardari told Pakistan People’s Party MPAs to launch industrial and agricultural projects in their districts to generate employment. He said elected representatives should coordinate with the people of their areas to resolve the problems being faced by the masses. He said the Sindh government was devotedly working to resolve people’s problems under the leadership of Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah.

    The president said “a new era of development” would soon begin in Sindh because of the Thar coal project. He directed that a comprehensive plan be made to provide basic facilities to all districts. Addressing the foundation-stone laying ceremony of the Mohatta Palace Museum Cultural Complex, Zardari said that it was the collective responsibility of all political forces to facilitate the return of normalcy to Karachi in the wake of an attack targeting a Muharram procession. daily times monitor/agencies

    http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\05\story_5-1-2010_pg1_1

  • Balochistan Assembly passes resolution in favour of Zardari

    QUETTA: The Balochistan Assembly (BA) on Monday passed a unanimous resolution expressing full confidence in the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari and appreciated his efforts for playing a key role in evolving a new consensus formula on the 7th National Finance Commission Award. During the 14th session of the BA – chaired by BA Deputy Speaker Matiullah Agha – Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) parliamentary leader Sadiq Umrani presented a bill to express full confidence in Zardari’s leadership, which was endorsed by all members of the House. “We express our full confidence in Zardari’s leadership for continuously striving to pull the country out of numerous internal and external crises… He is the symbol of unity of the federation as well as the PPP co-chairman, which is, no doubt, the largest political force of Pakistan,” the resolution stated. malik siraj akbar

    http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\05\story_5-1-2010_pg1_2

  • NWFP Assembly backs President Zardari

    Tuesday, 05 Jan, 2010

    The NWFP Assembly passed a resolution expressing complete confidence in President Asif Zardari, saying that he was the democratically elected president of the country. -APP Photo

    PESHAWAR: The NWFP Assembly on Tuesday expressed confidence in President Asif Ali Zardari, saying he was constitutionally elected president of Pakistan.

    The resolution jointly moved by Senior Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour and senior parliamentarian Abdul Akbar Khan was passed with majority.

    The assembly resumed proceedings after a break of two-day, with Speaker Kiramatullah Khan in the chair.

    Senior Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour of ANP and senior parliamentarian of PPP Abdul Akbar Khan said all state institutions should work in their jurisdiction and should respect each other.

    They said President Zardari was a symbol of the federation. He was elected with majority votes from parliament and four provincial assemblies.

    The senior parliamentarians said the role of President Zardari in the announcement of an unanimous National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, resolution of the long withstanding dispute of the net-profit on hydropower generation, resettlement of the displaced people of Malakand, enforcement of Nizam-e-Adl System in Malakand Division was appreciatable.

    The house, the resolution said, pay tributes to President Zardari and expressed complete confidence in him.

    The chair presented the resolution for vote. 76 members supported the move and only members including Sikandar Hayat Khan Sherpao (PPP-Sherpao), Nighat Orakzai, Zahir Shah (PML-Q) and Shazia Aurangzeb of PML-N opposed the resolution.

    Opposition comprising of JUI-F and other political parties abstained from the proceedings of the house. -APP

    http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/provinces/06-nwfp-assembly-backs-president-zardari-rs-04

    Previously, on 17 December 2009:

    Sindh Assembly reposes confidence in President
    By: Ramzan Chandio | Published: December 18, 2009

    KARACHI – In the aftermath of Supreme Court’s decision declaring NRO void ab initio, the Sindh Assembly on Thursday, through a resolution, has reposed full confidence in the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari.

    PPP and its coalition partners, MQM, PML-F, NPP, ANP and PML-Q members in the Sindh Assembly termed the demand of resignation of President Zardari as conspiracy against democracy and insult of the peoples’ mandate.

    The resolution jointly moved by Leader of the House/Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, MQM’s Parliamentary leader in Sindh Assembly Syed Sardar Ahmed, PPP’s parliamentary leader in Sindh Assembly Pir Mazhar ul Haq, PML-F member Dr. Rafiq Banbhan, MQM’s Dr Sagheer Ahmed and ANP’s parliamentary leader Amir Nawab, which was carried unanimously.

    The resolution reads, “The Assembly reiterates its resolution passed on 11th March 2009 and reaffirms its all out support and reposes full confidence in the leadership of Asif Ali Zardari as President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan who has addressed many important national issues and will Insha-Allah continue to address all the national issues through his policy of reconciliation”.

    The Provincial Ministers and lawmakers from PPP and its coalition partners in their speeches hit back the triggering demand of President Aif Ali Zardari, saying that the Sindh has received dead bodies of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and others from Islamabad, but the people of Sindh will fight back for their leader Asif Ali Zardari.
    Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, while speaking in favour of resolution said that Sindh Assembly was one of the electoral units for the election of President of Pakistan, which unanimously voted for President Asif Ali Zardari.

    Sindh Chief Minister said that unholy campaign has been initiated against elected President Zardari by undemocratic forces to compel him to vacate the presidency, which will be infringement of the votes of Sindh Assembly.

    He further said that Constitution of the country has given immunity to the office of President of Pakistan, so it is clear that President Zardari will not resign. He said that the people who demanding for the resignation of President Zaradri should follow the constitution. They should not take the views of Sindh Assembly lightly, he added.

    http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Regional/Karachi/18-Dec-2009/Sindh-Assembly-reposes-confidence-in-President

  • Editorial: Zardari’s revelation

    President Asif Ali Zardari had set tongues wagging and the rumour mills grinding overtime when in a speech the other day, he said he would use his “political weapons” against his detractors and critics, whom he has accused numerous times in recent days of seeking his ouster through unconstitutional means. Some took this to imply a veiled threat. Now, the president has revealed his hand. The “political weapons” turn out to be the electoral college that voted him overwhelmingly into the presidency last September. Even as he mentioned that the weapons were none other than the assemblies in an interview with BBC Urdu Service, the Balochistan Assembly was passing a unanimous resolution of support for him. The resolution expressed full confidence in his leadership, appreciated his key role in evolving a new consensus formula on the 7th National Finance Commission Award, and called him the symbol of the unity of the federation. With the ringing endorsement of the Balochistan Assembly under his belt, the president can look forward, according to reports, to a similar resolution of support from the NWFP Assembly. It is even being reported that the Sindh Assembly, which had earlier passed a resolution to this effect, could be persuaded in the emerging circumstances to repeat that performance to send a clear message to all and sundry. Not only all this, the sessions of the National Assembly and Senate summoned by the president may see similar moves too.

    Inevitably, when all the houses seem to be getting ready to speak with one voice on the issue, the focus will now shift to the Punjab Assembly, where the PPP is part of the coalition government led by the PML-N. Whether the Punjab Assembly will join in, and whether the president can command a unanimous resolution in that house remains to be seen. However, were Punjab to seem out of step with the rest of the assemblies, that will raise concerns about the impact of such an ‘absence’ on the unity and solidarity of the federation, Punjab having been in the dock in the past as the ‘big brother’ who always hogs the lion’s share of the cake and is responsible for the past domination of national life by its ruling elite at the expense, it is alleged, of the rest of the provinces. The good effects of the recently arrived at consensus formula for the National Finance Commission Award could be washed away if a negative perception about the most populous and developed province were once more to set in because of any such development.

    The strategy of calling on the assemblies on an issue of political import has been used once before by the president. The occasion was the desired ouster of former president General Pervez Musharraf, who was left with little choice but to resign when all the assemblies passed unanimous resolutions asking him to go and it became clear that his own institution, the army, had also abandoned him. The strategy’s use the second time round is aimed at giving a resounding blow to the campaign being run by certain quarters to discredit the president and the PPP-led government to the point where their departure becomes almost an inevitability. If the elected representatives en masse endorse the president and thereby the government led by his party, it would blow a big hole in the adverse campaign mentioned above.

    The president seems to have been finally stung out of his silence and bunker mentality. He has not only come out on tours to ensure he is seen in public, he has been using every such occasion to come out swinging against his opponents and sundry unnamed ‘conspirators’. While no exception can be taken to the president politically defending himself through perfectly legitimate moves, it would be best if he avoided the combative and sometimes derisory language being used against him by his opponents and thereby safeguarded the dignity of the high office he holds.

    http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\06\story_6-1-2010_pg3_1

  • PPP national asset: Nawaz
    By Habib Khan Ghori
    Thursday, 07 Jan, 2010

    KARACHI: PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif said on Wednesday that the time was not right for campaigns to remove the government because such moves in the past had pushed the country into crisis.

    Speaking at a press conference with Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah at the CM House, the PML-N chief said the water accord his government had reached with the provinces in 1991 should be implemented in letter and in spirit.

    “Pakistan today is facing several challenges. Terrorism, poverty, unemployment, price hike and loadshedding are major issues inherited from eight years of dictatorship,” he said, adding that the problems could have been solved if mandate of all political parties was respected.

    “The country can progress only if it is run on democratic lines. The Charter of Democracy should be implemented, the 17th Amendment done away with and parliamentary democracy should be taken forward.”

    The PML-N chief urged all political parties to work jointly to steer the country out of the present crisis. Criticism should not be for the sake of criticism but for constructive purposes, he said.

    “If we sit together like we are sitting here today this should be meaningful. In many countries leaders of different parties sit together and consult each other on important issues,” he added.

    In reply to a question, he said: “We will have to work jointly to stop conspiracies.”

    Without naming Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, the PML-N chief said the man who had dissolved parliament, abrogated the Constitution and pushed the country into crisis should not have been given the guard of honour. He should have been brought to justice and punished.

    Mr Sharif said the PPP was a “precious asset” of Pakistan and it should remain as a political force, but other parties should also be respected.

    http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/04-nawaz-qaim-qs-10

    President Zardari’s decision to shrug off his security fears and visit various parts of the country has added an interesting twist to national politics. The president’s several allusions to conspiracies against democracy being hatched in unspecified quarters have certainly not gone down well outside the PPP base, with much criticism directed at the president’s apparent conflation of democracy with the completion of his own term in office.

    The fact that the presidency has been occupied once again by so partisan an individual has certainly raised many a brow. But with no clear constitutional bar on the leader of a political party simultaneously occupying the presidency, it is perhaps a situation that will have to be tolerated for a while yet. The main issue though is that Mr Zardari’s recent performance has shown that he is willing to put up a fight to save his presidency, which means that his strategy to do so needs to be analysed.

    It is clear that Mr Zardari sees a threat to his position but perhaps what has not been fully understood is where he sees that threat really emanating from. Since the NRO judgment, speculation has centred on the superior judiciary and the army high command representing two possible ‘threats’ to Mr Zardari. But it is clear to long-time political observers that the presidential camp is also extremely wary of the PML-N and its leader’s intentions. Unfortunately, this threat perception of the presidency severely complicates the only obvious way for pressure to be reduced on the presidency: the passage of a constitutional amendment bill through parliament that would strip Mr Zardari of most of his powers.

    If Mr Zardari is suspicious that the PML-N will make a bid for power after clearing a way to a newly empowered prime minister’s office for its leader Nawaz Sharif, then Mr Zardari will clearly be reluctant to expedite the constitutional amendment. But holding up the constitutional amendment comes with a price. The political class will be unhappy that ‘anti-parliamentary’ powers are still in the constitution, while the army will be unhappy that the prime minister will not be the man choosing the next services chiefs. It is an old dilemma really: fear of the threat from one side exacerbates the threat from other sides.

    What next? The ball is in Mr Zardari’s court for now. For the PPP, a party that is once again feeling beleaguered in power, Mr Zardari’s words of late have been a morale booster. But words alone will not pull the PPP-led government from the jaws of fresh controversies. What will count is performance in the face of many challenges. As much rides on the passage of the constitutional amendment as well.

    http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/19-a-comeback-hh-01