March 20, 2008

Writing on the wall (for Musharraf)

Filed under: DOMESTIC — civilsocietypakistan @ 2:52 pm
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MARCH  20, 2008


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wednesday�s historic election of the country�s first female speaker of parliament is as clear a signal as can be for President Pervez Musharraf and his loyalists that they should put an end to their schemes and machinations to subvert the mandate that the people of Pakistan delivered on Feb 18. The joint PPP-PML-N-ANP nominee, Dr Fehmida Mirza, got 249 votes out of a total of 324 votes cast means that the new ruling coalition will enjoy a comfortable two-thirds majority in the lower house � of almost 20 seats. In fact, five votes were declared invalid and votes from 18 seats were not forthcoming, mostly because of lingering electoral disputes or poll postponements in the constituencies concerned. The magic number for achieving a two-thirds majority in parliament is 228, for a house of 342, and this means that the writing is very much on the wall for the president and his now rag-tag King�s Party � whose joint nominee managed to obtain a mere 70 votes (and this includes over 20, thanks to the MQM).

Wednesday�s decisive vote for the speaker and deputy speaker means that the next prime minister is going to have a very comprehensive mandate from parliament and in this context many of the speeches delivered by legislators made the telling point that perhaps the time had now come for all and sundry to accept the fact that parliament is a sovereign body to which all other institutions of the state must be subordinate. In the democratic and constitutional scheme of things this would make sense because parliament is supposed to represent and reflect the popular will, as translated through a free and fair election. In such an institutional scheme or framework, the military of a country is to be at the beck and command of the elected parliament, and committed to carrying out its duties and responsibilities (no more no less) as laid out in the constitution.

The response from the presidential camp, for the president�s own sake, needs to be well-thought out, studied and most importantly dignified. The camp can still try and save some face and bow to the will of the people by stepping aside with some grace and dignity intact. One can only hope that wise counsel will prevail at least this time and the president will be advised to step aside and let another individual, one who commands the support of the new parliament at the centre and in the provinces, to be elected president. This argument is all the more cogent if one considers the fact that the president was voted by an electoral college that since Feb 18 has been completely transformed and that most of those who had voted for him failed to become members of the new parliament. The Pirzadas (both gentlemen included) and the Qayyums and the Quraishis are better off now advising their boss that continuing a Machiavellian game and attempting to manipulate and engineer a result favourable to their side is no longer an option. The mandate enjoyed by the PPP-PML-N-ANP coalition is too powerful to ignore and cannot be subverted, unless of course the aim is to jeopardize the state of the nation.



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