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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2523

Coalition at the brink of breakup

By Asif Haroon Raja

A huge turbulence occurred on the political scene when the Lahore High Court bench disqualified Nawaz Sharif from contesting by-polls scheduled on 26 June on the plea that he was a convict. The case of Shahbaz Sharif was referred to Election Commission for further disposal. His future also hangs in the balance. Disqualification of Nawaz has lain to rest the farce of so-called national reconciliation about which lot of drum beating has been done.

It is now proven beyond any doubt that NRO is selective and was contrived for the fulfilment of vested interests of Musharraf, USA, PPP top leaders and their accomplices and MQM as a whole. NRO was meant to provide legal cover to the corruption and crimes of looters and criminals and had no room for others who had relatively much cleaner record. 15 corruption and criminal cases registered against Zardari and massive plunder of the national wealth by the notorious couple was set aside and Zardari has been rewarded for emptying the national kitty by making him the most powerful political figure despite being unelected.

Likewise, thousands of MQM leaders and activists who had committed heinous crimes have also been pardoned. The period of pardon was deliberately kept restricted up to October 1999 so that Musharraf’s chief rival Nawaz could be kept out of it. Having demonstrated such unprecedented generosity under the garb of national reconciliation which has no parallels, when the turn of the Sharif brothers of the most populous party came, they were shown no mercy.

The knee-jerk verdict on a high profile case could not have been given by the court without a nudge from Musharraf, or Zaradri or Ch bothers, or Hameed Dogar. Sharifs have been disqualified and qualified by PCO judges several times ever since their homecoming. The Dogar led judiciary have certainly not taken kindly to the ridicule and insults hurled upon them by PML-N leaders. Feeling offended, they have hit back to harass Nawaz and trap him to seek redemption from Supreme Court. He has however stuck to his principled stand of not seeking justice from PCO judges. PML-N and supporters of Nawaz have reacted furiously to the biased judgment which has further dipped the image of hand-picked judges.

Already feeling sheepish, Gilani hastened to do some damage control by moving the government to approach the Supreme Court on behalf of Nawaz and succeeded in postponing by-elections in the constituency from where he was to contest elections. The move has anguished Q League since it feels that it is move to sabotage its entry into the corridors of powers. In all likelihood Lahore court ruling will be over ruled. It will make the situation dicey for Nawaz whether to accept the decision of PCO Supreme Court or reject it. Another deadline of mid-July has been given to the ruling PPP to restore judges failing which PML-N would part company and sit on opposition benches. All these are ominous signs and the coalition already having a bumpy ride is teetering at the brink of collapse.

This duplicity has exposed the intentions of the architect of the NRO who had formulated and issued it in great haste on the night of 5 October last year solely to save his seat and to bring PPP in power so that the two could scratch each others back. Sharif brothers did not fit into the scheme of the things and were misfits from the very outset. The way Nawaz was humiliated and deported on 10 September in violation of Supreme Court orders is still fresh in our minds. We also remember that had it not been for Saudi pressure the two brothers would not have been allowed to return to Pakistan on 25 November. Having permitted them to come back with a pinch of salt, Musharraf made sure that they were disqualified by the PCO judges to take part in February elections.

In short every conceivable dirty trick was played by vindictive Musharraf to keep PML-N out of power and yet he failed. He did not give up and continued with his palace intrigues after the polls and formation of PPP-PML-N coalition governments in the centre and in Punjab to be able to replace PML-N with his favourite Q League. NRO dry cleaned Zardari was so heavily indebted to Musharraf that he agreed to play his game but discreetly and cunningly. Amir Ayaz rightly laments that “everything had been put at stake in Zardari’s bid to preserve the wretched NRO at any cost.”

Zardari’s reconciliatory moves to win over MQM, ANP and Baloch leaders were made to widen his political support so that he could beat back pressure exerted by PML-N on the issue of judges and impeachment of president and also had alternative available in case PML-N opted to move out before time. His so-called change of policy of giving preference to dialogue with the militants over use of force was not aimed at winning them over but to divide the religious extremist forces and defuse the threat of suicide attacks. PM Gilani made it clear that there would be no talks with the militants who refuse to lay down their arms and would only negotiate with peaceful tribesmen. In other words, the idea is to give back up support to pro-government tribal and pitch them against others. Lashkar-i-Islam led by Mangal Bagh in all probability has been cultivated by the government and CIA, which is presently engaged with another militant force based in Tirah Valley in its bid to bring it on board so that the two could collectively combat Tehrik-Taliban-Islam led by Baitullah Mahsud. Such underhand tactics would prove counter productive and would further fuel militancy.

Zardari entered into an alliance with PML-N with a view to gain political stability and after achieving desired steadiness, ditch PML-N at an opportune time. In the face of host of intricate problems PPP was not in a position to surmount the formidable challenges at its own or with the support of unpopular Q League and MQM. It was therefore PPP’s compulsion to take Nawaz League on board and sail past the rough patch. Owing to clash of perceptions on fundamental issues, the coalition has not been able to achieve desired harmony and closeness based on mutual trust. Judges issue has become the bone of contention which has impinged upon their relations. Zardari is principally responsible for vitiating the atmosphere by taking unilateral decisions against the interests of coalition partner and that too without taking Nawaz into confidence. Instead of solving the problems of the people, he is more concerned in saving the NRO so that he could hide his ill-gotten wealth. His doublespeak and vacillating attitude has enlarged the trust deficit.

Zardari has so far managed to dupe the general public by hiding his backdoor channel with Musharraf who is regarded as the villain of the piece. Although the people have now begun to see through the smoke screen that it is Zardari who is indulging in deceitful tactics and double dealings, yet as long as Musharraf remain in power Zardari will keep playing his dirty tricks by making Musharraf as his shield and getting away with it. He should realise that credibility is the most precious asset a leader possesses. Once this quality is lost everything is lost and he is doomed for good. He must also understand that it was Benazir’s deal with Musharraf and understanding with USA which had prompted the militants to resort to suicide attacks on her on 18 October and 27 December and also on PPP enclosure in Islamabad during lawyers protests.

Jayala culture in the meanwhile is once again in bloom. Jayalas are doing whatever pleases them with scant regard to rules, regulations and norms. In return they are expected to keep shouting slogans of “Jeay Bhutto” and “BB zinda hai”. PPP leaders are busy devising ways and means to eulogise slain Benazir and keep her alive by renaming, parks, airports, roads and what have you after Benazir Bhutto, celebrating her birthday and anniversary with gusto and such like endless pranks to keep the Piplyas amused and preoccupied. Other preoccupations of PPP leaders are passage of infamous constitutional package, UN probe on Benazir murder, constructing life size monument of the deceased at Liaquat Bagh and passage of a bill seeking an official apology on the judicial murder of Zulfiqar Bhutto. With their hands full, one wonders whether the elected leaders have any time to attend to the problems of the people.

Asif Haroon Raja is a political and defence analyst.

- Asian Tribune -

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