May 062008

Afzal Bajwa 
ISLAMABAD – Election Commission’s announcement to defer the bye-elections, besides inviting surprises and condemnations by leaders of the ruling coalition, and the ANP’s allegations against Interior Advisor Rehman Malik in this regard, seem to have pushed the government into a virtual quagmire.
So much so that Leader of the House in Senate Razza Rabbani was totally ignorant of even the EC announcement by Monday evening when in his chamber the journalists were insisting on his official reaction to the deferment of the bye-elections.
First he had a briefing from his party office and then he described it as a violation of the Article 224 of the Constitution wherein the bye-elections were supposed to be held within 60 days of the respective seats’ vacation.
He termed it as unfair to postpone elections “without consulting all the political parties. No other province or even the centre have pointed out any such requirement to postpone the elections except NWFP.” 
On the contrary, the ANP has said on record that the Interior Advisor had asked their party government in the province to agree to the postponement as the other three provinces were already in favour of it.
Late in the evening Provincial Chief Minister NWFP Ameer Haider Hoti addressed a press conference to unequivocally accuse Rahman Malik of conspiring against the ruling coalition. 
Pakistan Muslim League (N) was also furious over none else but Rehman Malik. Siddiq-ul-Farooq condemned Malik more than the Election Commission for what he described as blatant conspiracy against the ruling coalition at a critical juncture of time.
Contrary to what was going on outside the Parliament and inside the Senate on Monday, the impression that gained strengthen was that government had gone haywire. Far ahead of the judges’ restoration, which is feared to ignite confrontation between Presidency and the ruling coalition, the emerging misunderstanding within the coalition partners was to reveal their dismal level of coordination.
Apart from the questions about the judges restoration committee’s success after a notable resignation of Fakhruddin G Ibrahim from its membership before it was to meet late Monday evening, the birth of a new conspiracy over the bye-elections was alarming. 
More alarming was the hue and cry in the Senate about the shortage of the wheat flour in both the NWFP and Balochistan. Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel’s tone was sarcastic even on the judges’ restoration especially against the key coalition partner Pakistan Muslim League (N).
“They want to do justice with the judges first but not with the people of the NWFP being deprived of basic food,” he said.
Expressing saturation level of patience, he plummeted to the level of parochialism as against the provincial autonomy by saying, “If they (Punjab) refuse to give us wheat we would be left with no option but to stop supply of what we produce as a province namely the electricity.”
Following the suit of Haji Adeel, another angry Senator from Balochistan Haji Wali Muhammad also threatened to block of the supply of natural gas from the province to ‘others’. 
Deputy Chairman Senate Jan Muhmmad Jamali, while sitting in the chair of the Upper House also made his contribution in voicing the plight of the smaller provinces especially on the issue of wheat. 
Although he tried his level best to prevent the House from a debate pitting the provinces against each other, Senators vowing to block supplies was enough to indicate the mindset of the federating units.

Courtesy: The Nation, 6/5/2008

 Posted by at 6:46 am

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