Random header image... Refresh for more!

Posts from — August 2014

Why democracy needs time: by HASSAN JAVID in The Nation Aug 24, 2014

The writer is an assistant professor of political science at LUMS.

The charges against the current government are myriad. In addition to the allegations that it came to power on the basis of a rigged election, it stands accused of an inability to deal with the problems that Pakistan currently faces. The country’s electricity crisis remains unresolved, the economy is still anaemic, corruption is rampant, and the traditional networks of patronage politics and elite dominance remain in place. To make matters worse, the government appears to not have a comprehensive vision for tackling these issues, and has thus far displayed a worrying lack of interest in improving governance. As such, in the present juncture, there has been a re-emergence of a narrative that questions the value of continuing with the current democratic dispensation. It is argued that a democracy of this sort is one not worth having, and that it is better to simply start afresh, either with the dissolution of the assemblies and the holding of mid-term elections, or through the direct intervention of the military.

While it is easy to sympathise with the desire for change, especially in a context where successive governments continuously fail to bring about any meaningful, substantive reform, it is important to understand why it is self-defeating to push for a complete and total overhaul of the democratic system. In the past, the incompetence and venality of civilian politicians has invariably served as the justification for military intervention in Pakistan’s politics, both overtly and covertly, and it is clear from the historical record that this has itself been one of the principle factors undermining the development of a more effective, robust, and participatory institutional framework for governance in the country.

This point has been made before, but it bears repeating once more, given recent events in Pakistan. Democracy needs time to mature, and it is both unfair and unrealistic to expect it to deliver results instantaneously. There are several reasons for this; nascent democracies like Pakistan often emerge out of situations of authoritarian rule, and dismantling the structures of oppression and domination that characterise such regimes requires considerable effort and energy. This is perhaps doubly true in cases like Pakistan where an entrenched military establishment continues to exercise tremendous de facto power. The problem is compounded by the presence of a political class, drawn almost exclusively from the propertied elite, who themselves owe much of their power and prestige to the patronage extended to them by successive military governments, and who are more than willing to perpetuate established systems of control in order to strengthen their own positions. Finally, authoritarian rule also inevitably eviscerates democratic institutions, crippling the courts and media, and impeding the development of institutional means through which the government can be held accountable.

Given the tremendous challenges transitional democracies face, it is tempting to suggest that democratization itself may be too difficult a path to pursue, regardless of its merits and long-term potential. In situations where conflict and poverty continue to worsen, some may even suggest that strong non-democratic governments may be preferable to the chaotic unpredictability of democratic ones, at least in the short run. This, however, is a flawed argument, largely because for all its apparent failings, democracy contains within itself the mechanisms through which to overcome these problems given sufficient time.

To appreciate how this works, it is necessary to understand the need to have consecutive, uninterrupted cycles of electoral turnover. Basically, it is reasonable to expect that citizens dissatisfied with the performance of a government can and will use the power of their votes to remove specific parties and individuals from office and replace them with alternatives who offer better policies and programmes for reform. While it will certainly be the case that, at least initially, governments will be elected that will fail to perform well, the accountability generated through voting will eventually force parties in power, and those aspiring to come to power, to compete for electoral support by supplying better governance. Repeated cycles of electoral competition in which democracy is the only system on offer, will lead voters to demand more from their representatives, and will also compel the latter to deliver on the promises they make while campaigning.

The pressures unleashed by electoral competition will have other spillover effects. For example, the legislature will become a more effective means through which to enact reforms, with parties in power making use of their mandate to push for laws policies in line with their campaign promises. Given the greater costs democratic governments bear when engaging in repression, as demonstrated in Islamabad this past week, it is also likely that democratic governments will be less able or likely to suppress the media and the courts, allowing them to mature and develop into more powerful forces of accountability. Citizens themselves will have the space and the means to have their voices heard, and will be better able to articulate dissent and opposition.

Essentially, giving democracy time allows for its inbuilt systems of accountability to develop. Over time, it is this that will force parties to reform, weed out the corrupt and the inefficient, and allow for government to become more responsive and inclusive. However, whenever democracy is interrupted, this slow and incremental process of reform is pushed back to square one, especially when such interruptions are accompanied by the same kinds of authoritarian governance and opportunistic dealmaking that have undermined democracy in the past.

As such, while the PTI’s demands for electoral reform were and are legitimate and necessary, toppling the government to pursue them is likely to create more problems than it will solve. It makes far more sense for it and other parties to make use of their position as stakeholders within the system to push for change. As I have said before in this space, there is a time and place for revolution, but only if it is accompanied by a truly democratic and radical vision of society. This is something that the marchers in Islamabad lack. Democracy is often messy, and even the best democracies are plagued by issues of inequality and graft, but it still holds the promise of a better future than any experiment with authoritarian rule or civilian governments backed by the military. The PML-N and other mainstream parties are far from ideal but they will only be held to account and forced to change by the maturation of the democratic system. At present, this is what represents the best option for Pakistan.http://www.nation.com.pk/columns/24-Aug-2014/why-democracy-needs-time

August 24, 2014   No Comments

Dilemma of Barelvi politics: By Muhammad Amir Rana in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

The writer is a security analyst.

Irrespective of what Allama Tahirul Qadri is destined to achieve through his politics of agitation, he is injecting a sort of activism among disillusioned Barelvi religious organisations with a political orientation.

Most religio-political organisations subscribing to the Barelvi school of thought do not have organised structures and networks. Pirs, or custodians of shrines, and influential religious scholars constitute the local power centres and seek strength from the followers of their respective shrines.

They hesitate to pool their local political resources to form a mainstream party fearing it might compromise their authority. Also, they think it will curtail their bargaining position in local politics used to make alliances with mainstream political parties. Eventually, they tend to secure their local interests that are largely linked to maintaining their influence over their followers. Although they sometimes succeed in getting electoral tickets from mainstream political parties, this factor has been largely responsible for the weak electoral performance of Barelvi parties in Pakistan.

But a prominent Barelvi scholar and leader Tahirul Qadri has successfully managed to build and develop the structure of his organisation along the lines of the Jamaat-i-Islami and similar groups following the Salafi and Deobandi schools of thought. He has developed separate organisational structures for the charity, religious, educational and political wings of his movement. Organisations of this sort not only appeal to the urban middle classes in Pakistan, their different wings and departments also create the synergy needed to sustain and develop them.

Qadri’s dilemma is how to capitalise on the religious and political support base he has developed

Minhajul Quran International, headed by Tahirul Qadri, is running a large chain of schools and madressahs across the country which help it garner public support and attract funding from the upper middle classes and Pakistani diasporas in the West. Students and teachers of these schools and those working in charities operated by the organisation are political assets of Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek. In the recent PAT demonstrations, most of the participating families, including women and children, are either students, employees or other beneficiaries of the schools and charity institutions of Minhajul Quran.

Many other religio-political organisations are doing the same. Qadri’s dilemma, however, is how to capitalise on the religious and political support base he has developed over the past two decades or so. Many factors have contributed towards strengthening Salafi and Deobandi groups and parties in Pakistan. Many of them have gradually become part of mainstream politics. On the other hand, the Barelvi groups and parties have weakened over time. Their share in the sectarian and militant discourse has also remained minimal, even when Salafi and Deobandi organisations were thriving in this area.

Though Barelvi scholars and leaders project themselves as peaceful Sufi believers, they felt marginalised during the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s. They had then blamed the security establishment and Saudi Arabia for discouraging their participation in the Afghan jihad. Many Barelvi leaders also believed that the insurgency in India-held Kashmir was their front to fight from, but they were ignored there too.

They claim that the groups who had instigated the insurgency in India-held Kashmir were indigenous, nationalist and followers of the Barelvi school of thought but the security establishment replaced them with groups belonging to other sects who had experienced fighting in Afghanistan.

Such claims made by Barelvi leaders previously suggested that they had the desire and potential to become proxies in regional insurgencies. Some even felt that Barelvi organisations had paid a political price for staying or being kept away from the jihadist discourse while rival sectarian groups had successfully generated and spent funds on developing their religious, social welfare, educational and political infrastructures.

This perception has created an impression among some Barelvi religio-political groups that they can regain their political share in the power structure through establishing good relations with the establishment and developing militant credentials. In the recent past, Barelvi parties have paid less attention to restructuring and organising themselves along modern lines. Nonetheless, their prime emphasis has remained on developing good relations with the country’s security establishment. Qadri has managed to achieve both.

However, establishing militant credentials is a difficult task. A Barelvi organisation Sunni Tehreek attempted to do so in Karachi but eventually decided on a political role. It did not have a nexus with militant organisations in the country or abroad which would provide its cadres with militant training and logistics. Secondly, the Sunni Tehreek did not have any tactical sectarian support from an Arab country.

Given that they do not have organised violent groups as do Salafi and Deobandi organisations, it should not be surprising if Barelvi parties start depending on mob violence to achieve their religio-political objectives. But gaining political power through mob protests and violence is a hard task. The reason is obvious; mobs cannot hold their instant emotions over sustained periods. Politics is a rational discourse where people have multiple choices.

Tahirul Qadri has the ability to mobilise crowds for political purposes but is confused about where to lead them. He is unable to transform his rabble-rousing into electoral success. Despite his current clout, he is unlikely to secure even a few seats in parliament and to get a share in the system like the Jamaat-i-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl. One obvious reason is that he has gradually detached himself from the mainstream political discourse and built his entire political clout on extra-constitutional and undemocratic narratives.

Interestingly, the late Shah Ahmad Noorani of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan had realised in the late 1990s that the Barelvis’ political survival is in mainstream religious politics as they cannot compete with the well-organised Jamaat and Jamiat through solo flights. He supported political alliances of religious parties and was a major motivating force behind the creation of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal in 2002.

Does Qadri have such vision and patience to give direction to Barelvi politics in Pakistan? If not, he will continue acting as a spoiler and a destabilising agent. Certainly, this is not a good model to follow.http://www.dawn.com/news/1127288/dilemma-of-barelvi-politics

August 24, 2014   No Comments

Saving the PM?: By Farhan Bokhari in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist.

As the political storm led by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri continues in Islamabad, the illustrious members of Pakistan’s parliament have rallied behind Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, supporting his belief that his position cannot be up for grabs. But saving the prime minister may be far easier said than done.

Sharif appears convinced of Pakistan’s inevitable downhill journey if he is forced out eventually. However, with or without his survival in the face of the country’s increasingly troublesome and treacherous politics, Sharif’s future as a relevant member of the power structure may have been compromised.

Parliamentarians from both sides of the political divide are backing Sharif on the grounds of preventing a dangerous precedent where a mob forces out a democratically elected chief executive. What is there to stop a repeat of a similar episode in future, goes the argument.

Yet, while there is no doubt that their concerns are valid, especially in view of Pakistan’s turbulent history, the broader context of Pakistan’s political realities cannot be overlooked. In the heat of the moment, many may forget an important aspect of the prime minister’s position in the power structure. The prime minister wears not just one but two hats, the other being the top leader of the ruling PML-N.

In over two months since the June 17 killings of 14 of Tahirul Qadri’s supporters in Lahore’s Model Town neighbourhood, the ruling structure in the province led by Shahbaz Sharif conveniently ignored calls for the registration of police cases against key members of the local ruling structure. The fact that the onus was on the PML-N government to investigate the killings and take action was sidelined.

Without the storm now gathered in Islamabad, it was conceivable that those 14 deaths would be conveniently forgotten, and lost among the numerous cases of victims across Pakistan whose stories eventually fall into the dustbin of history. While the prime minister’s brother remained beyond reproach and Sharif maintained silence on the killings, the matter cannot be dismissed.

As the ruling structure scrambles to launch a political rescue mission by reaching out to friends and foes alike, the issue is not just about saving the prime minister and simultaneously saving a government that has been tainted by the Model Town killings. It is equally about the future of a party leader who appears to have done little when the moment of reckoning came on June 17.

Moreover, in the early part of his tenure, Sharif’s failure to tackle some of the worst challenges surrounding Pakistan is indefensible. Nowhere was the disconnect more obvious than the tail end of Ramazan. Sharif’s 10-day spiritual journey to Saudi Arabia was quickly followed by a five-day sojourn to Raiwind, conveniently detaching the prime minister from Pakistan’s mainstream challenges.

Notwithstanding Pakistan’s ongoing bloody battle with the Taliban militants and the scores of lives already lost in the fight, the record points towards a government in Islamabad with little capacity to lead Pakistan from the front in an all-out war.

Meanwhile, the PML-N’s failure to mount its own show of popular support in the face of the gathering storm is raising questions about its apparent inability to reach out to the grass-roots. Clearly, the much bandied about economic choices which remain a bedrock of the PML-N’s politics, have failed to ignite the popular spark.

During its first year in power, the regime has remained obsessed with the launching of one infrastructure project after another. If the plans conclude successfully, Pakistan will see more motorways, fancy bus projects and speedy urban trains, goes the argument from Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. Ironically, however, the matter of the crisis-stricken energy sector is yet to show a long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel as frequent power breakdowns and long hours of load-shedding take a toll on both industry and the people.

For the moment, it is difficult to precisely predict the final outcome of the turmoil. For Sharif’s political allies in parliament, saving Pakistan’s democracy appears to be synonymoust with saving the prime minister’s job — and given the situation their stance is understandable. But judged from the many other vantage points, and going beyond the current crisis, the long-term view of the PML-N’s rule might be different.

It’s not surprising that both Khan and Qadri, now camped for more than a week with thousands of followers across the road from parliament, have managed to sustain crowds in Islamabad’s sizzling summer temperatures, barring the temporary relief brought by the intermittent monsoon spells. It is not just about Sharif’s future as Pakistan’s first ever prime minister elected thrice to the job. Equally vital is his record as leader of a party that has become mired in controversy after the Model Town affair.http://www.dawn.com/news/1127275/saving-the-pm

August 24, 2014   No Comments

Revolutionary charlatans : edit in The News, Aug 24, 2014

With speculation rife and uncertainty everywhere, statements coming from the military calling for sagacity and wisdom from all stakeholders, and for the current political crisis to be sorted out quickly, were interpreted in different ways. Most analysts saw this as a sign that the military wished to stay away from the fray and leave the messed-up affairs of politics to the government. The government itself assured a nervous public that the military was committed to upholding the constitution. Yet, quite a few others sensed in this a kind of warning at a time when every word, every phrase was being dissected and placed under the microscope. Even though there are drastic dissimilarities, some have found the situation reminiscent of the protests by the Pakistan National Alliance against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, which too was spurred by such allegations. We all know the sorry end to that saga. The ISPR statement certainly acted to remind people of such possibilities. This, most likely, is the result of the paranoia that has its roots in our history.

What is not at all difficult to discern is that the two ‘revolutionary’ players at the centre of the drama have been looking very eagerly at such possibilities. Imran and Qadri’s disavowals in this respect do not mean a thing and expose their political bankruptcy. This can be said not only because container-stages can do little on their own and true revolutions do not require concerts to draw in people or shrill threats which cannot be carried out by the ‘revolutionaries’ themselves. It is the whole progression of the two marches in terms of strategic momentum, the language used by their leaders, the composition of their leadership and the ebb and flow of their ‘political’ and ‘non-political’ demands that lead to this inevitable conclusion. We understand that, even as loud whispers by Sheikh Rashid appear to subside, Imran’s heart has been talking to him a lot, saying strange things to him and giving him the date and day for the ultimate success of his endeavour to change, from above, the destiny of the people who need him and, according to himself, are not needed by him. There is only one way he can achieve his desired outcome and that is through extra-constitutional means. Imran and Qadri have backed themselves into a corner and instead of wriggling themselves out of this self-inflicted situation they have kept upping the ante. Both have been calling the duly-elected representatives – other than those from the PTI, of course – cowards because they have not chosen to be the eagles that dared.

People meanwhile seem to be forming their own opinions. Imran and Qadri have alarmed much of the politically conscious section of society. The legal fraternity in particular has strongly condemned the Azadi and Inquilab marches for their unconstitutional aspirations and planned protests of its own. Civil society has appeared ready to voice its frustration with Imran and Qadri’s antics. Many have made it clear they would like normalcy to return. They are convinced that the marchers’ political agendas mean more harm than good. The Pakistan Bar Council and lawyers speaking from other forums have said they will stand with democracy, and if necessary come out on the streets as they did in 2007 to resist unconstitutional measures. Political leaders in parliament have also been speaking out with a strong voice against undemocratic and substitutionist adventures. All this may be seen to strengthen the government and make it more likely that it will succeed in sorting out the mess. But its importance goes beyond this. It is not the love of the government that should turn people against political charlatans who will gladly sacrifice the democratic polity at the altar of impatient ambitions for more power and influence within the status quo. It should be the unflinching realisation that that such retrogressive, anti-change charlatanry is not the answer to the very real problems facing this country. This is where a consensus should emerge. The signs that the possibility for this exists are encouraging. www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-8-268882-Revolutionary-charlatans

August 24, 2014   No Comments

Policing The Police: edit in The Nation, Aug 24, 2014

The Punjab Police is a notorious institution; inept, behind the times and with its constables working primarily to generate petty bribes. The Model town incident confirmed a few other facts for us. Seeing that the ‘operation’ against Tahir-ul-Qadri commenced in tandem with the beginnings of his revolutionary intentions, it is safe to say that the actions of the police are dictated by the ruling party and not by its own operation procedures. The non-registration of a FIR against the government did nothing to dispel this belief either, and the narrative against the police was strengthened by the brutal and barbaric beatings of captured activists as well as indiscriminate shootings; all of which confirmed the idea that the police is an ill-trained, ill-managed, trigger happy force with little institutional accountability and little disconnect from politics.

However, with Shahbaz Sharif distancing himself from the police in the aftermath of the incident, there is a rather unplanned, almost accidental change in the narrative towards and from within the police. With rumours that the Judicial Commission implicates the police and not the government, police ranks at every level feel like they are being made convenient scapegoats for government folly. So much so that allegedly the IG of Islamabad was removed for asking for written instructions before proceeding against protesters. Additionally, police behaviour at the Islamabad sit-in has been rather dormant, good natured and even helpful to protestors as reports confirm. Though this stems largely from the fact that it is the very first we have seen of a demonised (now meeker) police force post- Model Town, one could, rather optimistically ask if the event made room for serious reflection. Could it be that the institution is finally feeling the weight of public scrutiny? Is it rebelling against its own politicisation? Would such restraint continue to exist once the county’s cameras and attention are focused elsewhere? And could it be the best thing anybody could have expected to come out of this tragedy?

However, when all is said and done, there seems to be little to support such a view. The police will not lightly give up the privileges it enjoys under political patronage, and even then, its restraint might be attributed to a shift in the government’s strategy regarding the marches. Yet, there seems to be some hope. Perhaps increased scrutiny and condemnation can be used to push for reforms that bring the police in Pakistan to the 21st century. It is high time someone turns its attention to our esteemed guardians of the peace.


August 24, 2014   No Comments

Above The Law : edit in The Nation, Aug 24, 2014

On Friday, Information Minister Pervez Rashid filed a petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) challenging the orders given by a Session court in Lahore. On 17 August, a Session court judge had ordered the SHO of Faisal Town Police Station to register a FIR against 21 persons from Punjab Police and PML-N, including PM Nawaz Sharif and Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif, over the June 17 Model Town incident, which left at least 12 Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) supporters dead and several injured. Now, the accused are well within their rights to challenge the Session court’s decision. The law permits them. What the law does not allow them to do is defy specific court orders simply because they disapprove of them. That is exactly what has been happening at the Faisal Town Police Station, and there should be no doubt that the PML-N has everything to do with it.

For a good six days, the Session court verdict remained unchallenged. What that means is that the SHO was bound by law to register the FIR unless ordered otherwise by a superior court. For six days, the SHO refused and remained absent, in direct violation of court orders. Furthermore, as per the law, the SHO is neither the only one authorized to register the FIR nor required to be present at the time. Why then were the orders not followed? Why are they still not being followed since the LHC is yet to decide on Pervez Rashid’s petition? If not the court, whose orders is the SHO following? Such blatant disregard for law by the powerful is the reason why the public has little faith in the justice system. This is why Tahir-ul-Qadri sells. This is where he is right, and the government is dead wrong.

Does CM Shahbaz Sharif really expect the public to believe that the Punjab Police is acting independently and according to law? Is he above the law? Is the Prime Minister? As far as this case is concerned, its clear that they really are, and refuse to follow what they preach. That they want to make laws but not be subject to them. That 12 people can be killed and many others wounded in broad daylight and even a FIR will not be lodged against the accused. The Sharif brothers cannot be allowed to take cover behind the wall of democracy. The struggle is for a democratic system where the rule of law is guaranteed, not for safeguarding the interests of some political family. Before anything else, the LHC should ask Pervez Rashid to explain the reasons for failing to follow the Session court’s orders, and issue contempt notices if his answers fail to satisfy. Then, we can plan where to go from there.


August 24, 2014   No Comments

The media noise : Editorial in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

It may be a sign of progress considering that the last time a government was under prolonged siege in the country, criticism lacked the intensity and urgency of today.

In fact, the intense media coverage of the current political situation involving the two sit-ins in Islamabad has resulted in the observation that all that was required to thwart a revolution was to switch off the television channels.

There are also complaints by people — not the politicians concerned — of partisanship by the media, thus relegating sensationalism to the status of a far lesser evil in the current discourse. There are news anchors who are accused of instigation and provocation, while some anchors make no secret of their presence among the protesters — as protesters.

In the now-forgotten past, journalists would scoff when they were accused by anyone of pushing an agenda. Today, a journalist walking around without an agenda could invite suspicion about his or her motives.

No wonder then that those defending their right to stay in power speak of the protesters and the media covering the march in the same breath. The government has magnanimously ‘allowed’ the people to protest and the government, the ministers tell us proudly, has ‘allowed’ the media coverage of the protest.

However, it is the same government which says that times have changed, and that the old methods to create hype are now doomed. It is clear that, as everyone comes to terms with new realities, there are going to be some journalists who might try too hard out of concern that they would otherwise fail to read the situation and commit the ultimate journalistic ‘mistake’ of not predicting, and effecting, change.

This urge is far too strong for many of them to adhere to ethics. But what is truly perplexing is the inability of media personnel to be chastened when their forecasts have turned out to be wrong. Ultimately, journalistic fare is determined by substance, and there is a difference between being crisp and unbearably loud.http://www.dawn.com/news/1127289/the-media-noise

August 24, 2014   No Comments

Zardari, Nawaz meeting makes PPP policy clear in present crisis: The News, Aug 24, 2014

ISLAMABAD: The pronounced outcome of former President and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chief Asif Ali Zardari’s meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will help clear the ambiguity and confusion being spread by some of the former’s lieutenants about the party policy in the prevailing crisis, writes Tariq Butt.

Meanwhile, Zardari emerged as the weighty reconciliatory voice, stressing supremacy of Parliament and the Constitution, in the current critical milieu. “We did not boycott the National Assembly although [when elections were stolen] we had just 17 seats. Similarly, Al-Gore did not go for agitation although he had won election but was not made US president,” he said giving a clear message to the PTI not to leave the assemblies.

There was “no third umpire” in his view. “We all [politicians] are umpires. We don’t want mattes go to that extent. Politicians will find a solution. No [provincial] government should challenge the federal administration through street power. Parliament should be given its full tenure to stay.”

Leader of opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah talked sense but became a favourite target of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan. Strangely, not many PPP leaders came to Khursheed Shah’s rescue because of the confused PPP strategy. The opposition leader has preferred not to respond to the PTI chief’s personal attacks.

However, Zardari’s unmistakable support to the supremacy of the Constitution, democracy and Parliament and ruling out the prime minister’s resignation appeared natural. Despite hypocritical assertions of some PPP stalwarts, the party had not gone totally against the Nawaz Sharif government and had not fully backed the demands of the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) Chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri. The PPP has not only voted for the resolutions in the National Assembly and Senate against any extra-constitutional adventure but even its Senator Saeed Ghazi had sponsored the motion in the Upper House of Parliament.

After the Raiwind meeting, there will be more clarity in the PPP policy, which will be immediately evident from the statements of its leaders in the coming days.

Although the Sharif brothers specifically Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had been slamming the PPP government severely, they had always opposed its premature ouster. There were several occasions when the government had faced colossal crises and it was widely speculated that it was about to fall or booted out, but Nawaz Sharif used to come to its rescue and had thwarted all such attempts.

Following the same principle, Zardari is standing with the prime minister, and has not gone with the agenda of Imran Khan and Dr Qadri, who are not free agents. At this point of time, Nawaz Sharif needs support of all and sundry. Zardari’s clear backing is important for him at this stage.

There was not a single dissenting voice in either House of Parliament when the resolutions were unanimously passed, rejecting any step beyond the four corners of the Constitution. In fact, of twelve parliamentary parties, eleven supported these motions. The PTI, which is staying away from the National Assembly proceedings, was the only exception.

No political party in Pakistan’s history has suffered so comprehensive isolation that the PTI is beset with. Everybody rejects its present stand and Imran Khan antagonizes more and more political parties on daily basis by hitting them without much deliberation. The agreement of Zardari and the prime minister to launch a multiparty parliamentary delegation to hold talks with Imran Khan and Dr Qadri may be a good idea but the real question is whether the PTI chief will accept its role and mediation, and whether it will succeed in bringing him down from the roof of his container.

However, the idea may look superfluous and overlapping to some as already a 33-member parliamentary committee, headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, has been formed to recommend electoral reforms and constitutional amendments that Imran Khan cherishes. The PTI had nominated its three representatives. The body has as huge powers as the 26-member committee led by Senator Raza Rabbani, which unanimously proposed the 18th amendment, had.

The assertion of the finance minister during the post Zardari-prime minister meeting that all the six demands of the PTI have in fact been already accepted by the government by constituting the 33-member committee and asking the chief justice in writing to set up a judicial commission to probe the poll rigging charges was interesting. It meant that the PTI has nothing left that the government will be ready to consent despite the continuing talks between the two sides.

The former president also put his full weight behind Nawaz Sharif on the question of latter’s resignation as vigorously demanded by Imran Khan when Dar said: “Zardari is clear on this – there is no question of the prime minister’s resignation.” In this connection Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s remark, quoting Zardari as saying that demanding resignation amounts to weakening the State was very telling to reflect Zardari’s view.

PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s emphasis while referring to a statement of Khursheed Shah that the PPP supports all of his six demands was freakish. The opposition leader talked about putting the prime minister’s resignation demand at five or six number on the chart that Qureshi interpreted it as its support. In fact, Khursheed Shah had wanted to give a very low priority to the resignation demand.

Zardari’s flurry of meetings with the prime minister followed by his sessions with Jamaat-e-Islami Chief Sirajul Haq and PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Parvaiz Elahi brought him in the political limelight and threw him up as player to be reckoned with. After badly losing the 2013 general elections, the former president had been in the political wilderness.

Sirajul Haq was a forceful supporter of the continuation of democratic system, and rejected any extra-constitutional step, resignation of the prime minister and dissolution of the assemblies. The Chaudhrys of Gujrat hold the opposite view. Zardari’s meetings with these leaders, having clashing views, provided him an opportunity to have the first hand knowledge about their opinions.

What was satisfying for Nawaz Sharif was that he hosted the meeting that Zardari wanted amid intensity of the present situation. Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique impliedly confirmed that the luncheon meeting was held at the former president’s desire.


August 24, 2014   No Comments

Chaudhrys refuse to budge on demands: The Nation, Aug 24, 2014


LAHORE – Former president and PPP de facto chief, Asif Ali Zardari who is known among the political circles as master of reconciliation met with the PML-Q top leadership on Saturday to reverse at least Inqlab March but failed to get an assurance from Chaudhrys of Gujrat for convincing Dr Tahirul Qadri to withdraw the same under a workable political deal.

The PML-Q high command told the PPP leader that no talks could prove fruitful until the resignation of the ruling family and registration of FIR against the accused of Model Town tragedy.

PML-Q, which was a former coalition partner of the PPP, is believed to be the policy-making force of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Inqlab March plans and strategy.  The ruling party which is facing the siege of PTI and PAT in the federal capital has failed to get a bailout even by involving the master of reconciliation, Asif Ali Zardari.

It is now nine days that the PML-N, despite employing different efforts, has been unsuccessful in extricating the Azadi and Inqlab March of Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri from Islamabad.

Close aides of PML-Q top leadership privy to the discussions of the meeting told this correspondent that it ended without any result.

The PPP team led by Asif Ali Zardari along with Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah, Aitzaz Ahsan, Rehman Malik and Raza Rabbani when reached Zahoor Elahi Lane was warmly welcomed by PML-Q chief Ch Shujaat Hussain and senior leader Ch Pervaiz Elahi. Chaudhrys’ close aides said that Zardari asked Shujaat and Pervaiz to play their role to end Inqlab March by convincing Dr Qadri under a reasonable political deal.

But the two top party leaders politely refused to consider any deal till the resignation of the ruling family and registration of FIR against the accused of the Model Town incident.  PML-Q top leaders, however, assured the PPP leader Asif Zardari that they could convince Qadri to end March if he (Zardari) could make efforts for midterm elections under a bi-partisan caretaker setup.

They also told Zardari that they (PML-Q and their political partners in Inqlab March) could withdraw if they get an assurance of a national government by sending the incumbent home.

Meanwhile, Ch Pervaiz Elahi while talking to the media along with Ch Shujaat Hussain said the Inqlab March sit-in would continue till resignation of the Sharif government. He said PML-Q leadership has told the PPP mediation team that Inqlab marchers would not withdraw till the resignation of Sharif family and registration of FIR against the culprits of the Model Town incident.

Pervaiz said ruling family has never rendered any sacrifice for the democracy and they should resign in the best interest of the democracy and pave the way for a national setup. He said he had conveyed the message of Dr Qadri to Zardari.

PML-Q senior leader said they were in contact with mainstream political parties for new setup.

Pervaiz told the media that Zardari said he would inform the PML-Q about PPP line of action in the changing political scenario after consulting party leadership.  He said democracy would not be derailed with the resignation of the Sharif family.

Meanwhile, Zardari has constituted a four-member committee for continuing contact with Jamaat-e-Islami leadership for finding the peaceful solution of the ongoing political turmoil. The committee comprises Opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Shah, ex-interior minister Rehman Malik, Senator Raza Rabbani and Senator Aitzaz Ahsan.

The current political crisis had brought together the forces who once used to had been arch rival as PPP top leadership on Saturday visited JI headquarters—Mansoora— after 37 years to discuss the way out of pulling the country out of political turmoil.

Before Zardari, the PPP chief Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto along with his wife Nusrat Bhutto had visited the JI headquarters in 1977 during the movement of Pakistan National Alliance against his government.

The PPP delegation held an hour-long discussion for the solution of the political challenges. During the meeting, both the sides exchanged views on the current political crisis and agreed upon making efforts to save democracy and to find a peaceful solution to the issue. During the meeting Zardari praised the efforts of JI in resolving the issue and negotiations between the government and the protesting parties and bringing them to the dialogue table. Zardari urged the JI leadership to continue its struggle and extended full support of his party. The two parties called for finding out a political solution of the crisis.

Briefing the media after the meeting, Siraj said the 180 million Pakistanis were greatly perturbed due to the sit-ins and wanted an early end to the crisis. The country’s economy had been ruined and its image abroad was suffering. He said whoever among the PTI and PML-N takes the lead in resolving the crisis would earn greater respect in the eyes of the nation. He said the whole nation and all political parties wanted to protect the country’s Constitution and the democracy at all costs and the two sides should be given a respectable way out so that the crisis could be over.  Siraj appealed to the PTI to review its decision to tender resignations. He also urged the National Assembly Speaker to defer consideration on PTI MNAs resignations for the time being. He also set up a committee under JI Secretary General Liaqat Baloch which would meet the NA speaker and request him not to take a hasty decision on the PTI’s resignations.http://www.nation.com.pk/national/24-Aug-2014/chaudhrys-refuse-to-budge-on-demands

August 24, 2014   No Comments

PPP top boss visits Mansoora after 37-year gap: Daily Times, Aug 24, 2014

LAHORE – Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has met Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq here on Saturday while this is the first visit of a PPP chief to Mansoora in the past 37 years.

Current political crisis has brought all major political parties close to each other. The continuation of democracy has forced all politicians to join hands. After PPP founding chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, this is the first visit of top PPP leader to Mansoora in the past 37 years.

Opposition Leader in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah, former Interior Affairs minister Rehman Malik, Senator Raza Rabbani and Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan were also accompanied their party co-chairman. During the meeting, views were exchanged between the PPP and Jamaat leadership on current political crisis.

Both the sides agreed upon making efforts to preserve democracy in the state and to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. Zardari praised efforts of the Jamaat leader in resolving the issues and extended full support from his party. Earlier, the PPP co-chairman also called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at his Jati Umra residence.

Zardari will also hold a meeting with leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Q Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who are aiding Dr Tahirul Qadri in his ‘Inqilab March’ to what they believe change the system.http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/national/23-Aug-2014/ppp-top-boss-visits-mansoora-after-37-year-gap

August 24, 2014   No Comments