March 26, 2008

Lonely at the top

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 3:27 pm


MARCH 26, 2008


IT was indeed a moment of truth and vindication when Makhdoom Yousaf Raza Gillani was administered oath as Pakistan’s new Prime Minister by General Musharraf who kept him in jail for more than five years on trumped-up charges. But this long period of political hardship finally came to a happy ending. Mr Gillani became the first non-Bhutto PPP PM who secured the highest number of votes in the country’s parliamentary history when the National Assembly elected him as Leader of the House on Monday. A noisy show of people’s power coupled with thunderous “Go-Musharraf-go” slogans was an expression of rage against the repressive rule that has plunged the country deeper into crisis. It turned out to be another referendum against the President for whom it must be disturbing to see Mr Gillani order the release of the deposed judges even before being sworn in as PM. The authorities however seemed willing to comply as they let Mr Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry address the public for the first time since his dismissal four months ago.
The prime ministerial decree for judges’ release was greeted by a standing ovation from the elected members. Mr Gillani paid tributes to the late Benazir Bhutto by attributing the restoration of democracy to her prolonged struggle to bring to an end Musharraf’s iron-fisted rule. And he requested the house to pass resolutions, recommending probe into BB’s assassination by the UN and condemning Z A Bhutto’s execution as a judicial murder. It might be an implicit reminder to the superior judiciary to exercise independence by resisting pressure from the executive for giving desired verdicts. Mr Gillani must also be aware that apart from holding the ruling coalition together his biggest challenge would be to strengthen democratic institutions and let them function within the purview of the constitution. A special effort would also be required to create a balance between his own office and the presidency. Mr Gillani expressed his desire for national reconciliation by inviting all political forces to jointly work for resolving the multi-faceted crisis facing the country. There was also a message for the leadership of the ruling coalition to respect political opponents and avoid victimizing them.
General Musharraf’s repeated assertion that he would have no problem working with the new government notwithstanding, the mood at the national assembly was more of a declaration of war against him. And his feeling of being isolated might have been further accentuated when Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mr Asif Zardari decided to abstain from the PM’s oath-taking ceremony. It is time the President realized that his biggest service to the nation would be to step down and let the new dispensation put the country back on the track of democracy.


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