March 26, 2008

A clear message

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 3:31 pm


MARCH 26, 2008


Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Top leaders of all the main political parties in the new parliament, including even the staunch ally of President Pervez Musharraf, the PML-Q, stayed away from the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at the presidency on Tuesday in their first collective act of defiance and rejection of a president they would all like to fade into history. The otherwise dignified ceremony ended on slogans in favour of Benazir Bhutto and her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, ostensibly to snub the president. The attendance of the second tier of PPP leadership was symbolic while the PML-N and the ANP were altogether absent. Even Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain opted not to be there for their own reasons. As for the PPP leaders who were there, they are known to have a reputation of being soft towards the presidency and have in the past interacted with it at various levels.

Clearly, this en bloc absence of the main leaders was orchestrated to send a message that Mr Musharraf should concede defeat and not pollute the political environment further and that he should do so by allowing peace and stability to the new leadership to tackle the colossal issues facing the nation. Coupled with the dramatic release of the detained Supreme Court judges on Monday night, even before the new prime minister could legally issue any such executive order and a major reshuffle in the Pakistan army, it is now obvious that the support structure in the administration which President Pervez Musharraf was ordering around has collapsed and the centre of power has shifted. This reality has to sink in the presidency sooner than later.

Though some reports have now started suggesting that Mr Musharraf may be thinking of resigning since he would not like to work in an environment where tension persists and cordial working of the administration becomes difficult, it would still be the biggest decision of his career because his western and foreign friends still do not want him to go. It is encouraging that senior US officials are meeting the top political leadership and assuring them of full support. However, the panic in the American camp is no one else’s fault but a situation caused by Washington’s own acts of omission and commission. The White House and the State Department never listened to advice � often coming from within America � in the last many years telling them not to put all their eggs in one (individual’s) basket. Now it is time to face the consequences of a bad policy.

The standoff between the political leaders and the president should not continue. It will be unfortunate if the grand coalition government of national consensus is forced to waste its time and energy trying to subvert a web of conspiracies and manipulations in a bitter legal or constitutional power struggle. The president should show grace, step aside and allow the new coalition to formulate policies to deal with the mess which it has inherited. A focused and stable government which has the massive peoples support behind it, can address the issues of the angry and embattled tribal areas, resolve the judges issue, and hopefully tackle the growing religious extremism by adopting a carrot-and-stick approach to those behind the campaign of violence and terrorism, especially suicide bombings.

Pakistan needs a period of determined diplomacy, in its own national interest, at home and abroad, to put the country back on the path of growth. It needs major initiatives to curb inflation (for which there is unlikely to be any magic solution in the short term), the acute power crisis, unemployment and many other such inherited problems. If Mr Musharraf really believes in Pakistan first, it is time that he stopped looking at his own self and let the elected leadership do something about Pakistan. He would serve Pakistan better by leaving it alone.


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