New Age Islam
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Debating Islam ( 29 Sept 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan: Change of government - for what ?

By Babar Ayaz

The impatient establishment of Pakistan is once again pushing the country towards a change of government. Various configurations and plans are being debated in power circles. A broad consensus among the political parties, that no change should be brought in through extra-constitutional means, makes the job of removing the government by the establishment more difficult and complicated. The basic questions from the people’s point of view that need to be asked are: for what will there be a change of government? How will it solve the problems of the country? And how will this change help the poor people of Pakistan?

Before we venture to answer these puzzling questions, let us look at various scenarios that can bring about the change of the government.

Scenario 1: The simplest way political pundits say would be if the MQM and FATA members of the National Assembly were nudged by the establishment to leave the ruling coalition. That would mean that the prime minister would have to prove his majority in the house. For a few days the situation will become dirtier than even the floodwaters. There will be a scramble to buy support from the PML-Q, which has now joined hands with Pir Pagara. This self-proclaimed GHQ man is not expected to save the Zardari-led government. Next, the second biggest party, the PML-N, could be asked to form the government. The numbers game may start but the chances of Mian Nawaz Sharif falling into this trap are slim. So, the only constitutional option will be to go for mid-term elections and appoint a technocrats’ interim government, something our khakis love. Again, under the constitution, this interim government will be required to hold mid-term elections within 90 days. This does not suit the movers and shakers of the government because their dream technocrat team will not be able to fix the multiple problems of the country in 90 days. What could be the next step? My friend Nusrat Javeed says the interim government will have ample ammunition to go to the judiciary and seek more time, pleading that because of the floods, the precarious economic situation — which they are already flagging with vigour — and the prevailing terrorism, they should be given another two to three years. My hunch is that the judiciary, which has always entertained such applications from the establishment and has been harsh only with elected governments, will oblige in the ‘national interest.’

So far, so good. But there are many hitches in bringing about this change. First, this scenario does not provide any mechanism to get rid of President Zardari, the man who the establishment hates and people consider as one of the most corrupt politicians ever. Second, the real power on ground is with the provincial governments; they cannot be removed because the prime minister has lost his majority in the National Assembly. In Sindh, the PPP does not need any other party to form the government, so even if the MQM parts ways, the government cannot be brought down. The PPP will once again regain its popularity if it is thrown out of power before the completion of its term. In Balochistan, the establishment can manipulate a change as no party has a sizeable presence. In Punjab, Nawaz Sharif will not let his government fall and is likely to continue with the support of the independents and probably with the PPP also. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the ANP will need the support of the PPP. Not much is going to change particularly after the 18th Amendment, which strengthened the age-old provincial autonomy issue.

And lastly, I agree with Nusrat’s analysis that the PML-N will lead the movement whereby elections should be held within 90 days. The PPP will also be asking for the same. So the public pressure on the judiciary will be in favour of elections within 90 days and not giving a long lease of life to the interim government.

Now quickly assess whether going through all this will be any good for the people in whose name the impatient establishment plays games with the political evolutionary process of the country. The answer is obvious: more turmoil in the country and misery for the people.

Scenario 2: In a country with a bleak future, the black coat’s ‘revolution’ — or should we call it ‘coup’? — might throw away President Zardari’s immunity and push the government to write to the Swiss courts. Even Zardari’s opponents like Justice (retd) Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui think that the Swiss court, which has closed the case on its own, will not reopen it. “The government should have written the letter to them when the Supreme Court ruled in this regard and got over it,” he observed the other day while talking to me. But can a government and a political party write to a foreign court claiming that our leader, who laid down her life by raising her voice against terrorism, and her husband are corrupt people? Legally, they can, but the PPP knows that politically it would be suicide. This will create a political impasse and clash between the two institutions of the state. Then enters the dragon — the ‘Kakar’ option. Remember how he made Nawaz Sharif resign even though he had won the case from the Supreme Court? That, indeed, is not the constitutional option because it means interference in politics by an institution that is theoretically supposed to work under the civilian government and not as a supra-constitutional force.

Again, what will change for the common man? All we do is run around in circles. Nothing in this formula helps in bringing inflation down, fiscal deficit cut, relief for the flood affected people and bringing terrorism and sectarianism under control. People may argue that the change will bring in an efficient and less corrupt government. But past experience shows that no revolutionary change is possible at present; genuine change should come but through the natural process of democratic evolution. As a matter of fact, the right course should be to keep pressing for better governance and exposing corruption as it is being done at present and wait for the next elections that are not that far away. This would help in focusing on the real problems instead of politicking for quick gains.

The writer can be reached at

Source: Daily Times, Pakistan