May 24, 2008

Open war?

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 3:24 am
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MAY 24, 2008


Saturday, May 24, 2008

The mists that have shrouded power politics in Pakistan over the last many months have begun to lift. PPP co-chairperson, Asif Ali Zardari, who stood accused of aligning his party with the presidency, has broken quite decisively free of the stifling presidential embrace. Indeed, he has done so rather dramatically, lashing out in an interview against President Musharraf as a ‘relic of the past’, asserting that people wanted him out of office above anything else, that he was under immense pressure to oblige them and announcing that the PPP was determined to slice away the president’s not inconsiderable powers. The new, public stance against the president dispels the fears that a troika made up of Musharraf, Zardari and Altaf Hussain was getting set to rule Pakistan. The prospect of such a setup was not pleasant and many had voiced the fear that it would mark the final demise of the PPP as a popular party.

It is of course impossible to say decisively why Mr Zardari took so long to make his feelings about Musharraf known. PPP insiders hold that as a man who had spent eight years in jail, he remains enormously wary of the Pakistani establishment — which continues to side with the retired general — and wished to do nothing to enrage it. The US support for Mr Musharraf was also a factor, with the PPP choosing to take a ‘softly, softly’ approach to the matter. It has been reported the change has come only after Musharraf turned down all suggestions that he make a quiet, dignified exit from office. As we have seen before, megalomania and a refusal to face up to reality seems to go alongside leadership in Pakistan. The president’s latest attempts, to rally the PML-Q and urge it to work with him against the PPP, seem also to have been taken as evidence that the president had no intentions of quitting voluntarily. That Mr Zardari, the chief beneficiary of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), has now been acquitted in all cases against him is another factor, while there is also speculation he has decided to change his stand given mounting hostility directed against him and the need to combat it. What can be said with some certainty is that, in the ever-changing kaleidoscope of Pakistani politics, the pattern has altered once more, before the eyes of a nation dazed by the pace of unfolding events. The end of Musharraf’s tenure in power seems closer than ever, with the PPP apparently determined to oust him. The constitutional amendment package required to achieve this is ready while careful, sometimes behind-the-scenes manoeuvring has also been taking place to win over support in parliament.

Despite this, some uncertainties remain. While the ANP seems to be firmly on board, judging by recent statements, a gap still exists between the PPP and the PML-N. Mr Zardari’s next challenge may be to bring his coalition partners back into the picture, so that the democratic front created against Mr Musharraf stands firm and can offer the governance the country so badly needs once the drama pitching parliament against the presidency is over, and the task of solving Pakistan’s many problems can begin in earnest.


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