June 14, 2008

Ostrich-like approach (BY ZARDARI)

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 8:52 pm
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JUNE 15, 2008


THE coalition government and President Musharraf need to draw the right lessons from the long march which culminated in Islamabad on Friday and was unique in a number of ways. Independent estimates put the number of the participants at over 200,000. The march started with caravans from Karachi and Quetta, which brought protesters from Balochistan and Sindh first to Multan and then Lahore. As marchers proceeded towards Islamabad their ranks swelled. Another caravan comprising participants from NWFP, FATA and Azad Kashmir joined the mainstream at Islamabad, turning the gathering into the largest-ever political congregation in the federal capital. The march thus turned into a unique demonstration of the people’s will. No other march in the history of the country had brought together people from such diverse backgrounds, representing practically the entire ethnic, religious, and political spectrum. The banners and placards carried by the protesters indicated that they were united on two issues, the restoration of the deposed judges and the removal of President Musharraf.
Another unique feature of the protest was its discipline. The marchers dispersed peacefully when the event was called off by the lawyers’ leaders who ignored calls by certain hotheaded elements to stage a sit-in. While the organizers wanted to convey their complete dissatisfaction with the failure of the government to restore the judges and remove the President, they made it amply clear that they did not want at this stage any confrontation, which could in any way destabilize democracy. Mian Nawaz Sharif was careful in his speech in his choice of words and did not encourage those supporting a sit-in.
What is needed on the part of the government is to put its act together. Judges have to be restored at the earliest and a decision taken promptly about the future of the President. It won’t do to bury one’s head ostrich-like in the sand on Mr Zardari’s part. The tendency to underrate the long march, indicated by statements from a number of shortsighted government leaders, would be harmful. Failure to resolve crucial matters urgently is bound to sharpen the differences between the government on one side and the lawyers and civil society on the other. What is more, this could contribute to misunderstandings among the ruling coalition, ultimately leading to the parting of ways. This would be extremely harmful for the democratic process. The long march has further weakened the President and demoralized his supporters. A number of PML-Q parliamentarians are now willing to support the move to restore the judges. What the coalition partners need to do is to push the matter through Parliament immediately after the Budget is passed. President Musharraf too must realize that it is no more realistic to continue to stick to power.

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