May 282008

Mumtaz Bhutto

Strictly speaking, reconciliation commonly takes place between feuding spouses, with the intervention of a marriage counsellor. In the context of Pakistani politics, it would be more appropriate to call the ruling grouping of political parties a coalition. These are common all over the world when political parties not having the numerical strength in the assemblies to form governments. However, such linkups are always based on declared basic principals designed to provide good governance. However, the present coalition in the country is simply a get-together to enjoy the fruits of power and the ANP and the JUI (F), and even the MQM, that old nemesis of the PPP, none of which were required for formation of governments, have been drawn in so that they are not left out to complain. This is a manoeuvre which negates the fundamental principles of genuine democracy. But the trick has not worked, and when even the media was very generously attributing statesmanship to people who become leaders by accident, it was that knight in shining armour, Ayaz Amir, and yours truly, who raised their voices to say that the emperor had no clothes. Now the people have awakened to the fact that they have been duped. It has now dawned on the people that the Bhutto name has once again has been used to squeeze out even the last drop of political benefit, and like Shaheed Mir Murtaza’s murder the case of his sister, Shaheed Benazir, has been buried with her body and forgotten.

It is a fact that all the evils inflicted on the people–i.e., uncontrolled crime, licensed corruption, rapidly escalating prices, hunger and thirst, helplessness in dealing with power and gas shortages, collapse of all institutions, including health and education–are a legacy of the previous government which had criminals, corrupt, illiterate and incompetent people on important posts, the only object being to keep Pervez Musharraf in power. This strategy worked for an agonising eight years.

Two months have passed since the prime minister took oath and as usual all we have is promises while the evils have multiplied manifold. Only in the past month the prices of basic food items have gone up by 17.21 percent, the current account deficit has gone up to $11.586 billion and the trade deficit up to $16.8 billion. The time was sufficient for the new government to show improvement at least in the law-and-order situation and reduction of corruption through effective action.

In the current dispensation effective action is seriously lacking. The ministers are reduce to mouthing the tedious refrain that problems will be solved soon. Like the erstwhile ministers, the present lot can do nothing more then “take notice,” which is ridiculous, or order an inquire or report, which is done to bury the matter. Thus, there are no signs of change except of faces in the corridor of power. Meanwhile, as in the case of the previous rulers, there are many in the present government who have criminal records and cases of murder and corruption against them, in which they were absconders and have been reprieved by an immoral and illegal deal with President Musharraf manifested in his infamous NRO. This, of course, precludes them from claiming that the cases were false, which could only have happened in case of a verdict of not guilty in court. Similarly, long durations of trials do not mean lack of guilt. Cases here normally do not take less then fifteen to twenty years to conclude (the writer is speaking from personal experience) and it is usually the accused or defendant who resorts to various means to avoid a verdict a long as possible. Delay has become the best defence. However, the corruption cases filed in England and Switzerland against Asif Zardari stand proved and sentences of confiscation and auction of Surrrey Palace and sealing of accounts worth about $70 million with six months imprisonment has already been imposed. Anyhow, what is beyond dispute is the fact that the previous two PPP governments which were dismissed on charges of murder and corruption (the dismissals upheld by the Supreme Court) consisted mainly of those who are in government today, which raises the question what political pilgrimage have they performed to cleanse themselves of their natural propensities? And what reform school for disgraced politician have they attended to raise hopes of better performance? However, the most negative factor in the present PPP government is the absence of Shaheed Benazir, which is an unfathomable minus. When this lot could not show the required integrity and ability under her guidance, how are they going to prove equal to the task now?

The lack of calibre, sophistication, style, finesse, savoir faire and the elation that comes with academic excellence, which are the hallmark of rulers worth the name, are singularly lacking in this team. They do not project an image of power and authority and are very shaky and amateurish in their ways, thereby failing to inspire confidence. These are not attributes that produce good governance. The wily bureaucrats are masters at putting the rulers through clandestine tests and the cooperation they give depends on how the latter acquit themselves.

The prime minister in his inaugural speech in the National Assembly issued a number of orders, but except for the release of the judges, none appears to have been implemented. Similarly ministers at central and provincial levels seem to be spot running: The truth that the present leaders do not fit in the chairs vacated by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Husseyn Shaheed Suharwardi and Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is starkly evident and visualisation of the present leaders liaising with world leader in international forums makes one break out in a sweat.

Thus, the level of politics and governance in the country has hit rock bottom and it is no surprise that even their Yankee sponsors choose to deal with them at the level of assistant secretary of state. In this miserable scenario it is no wonder that the only two firm commitments the new government has been able to make so far are to approach the UN to investigate the murder of Shaheed Benazir and to restore the sacked judges in thirty days, which it is now at pains to escape taking refuge behind hollow declarations. Beyond this the government is rudderless and without direction preoccupied with the huge task of staying in power.

Even in this much mischief is afoot and the grand reconciliation has already become difficult to sustain. Not only the PML-N but also the ANP and the JUI-F have found cause for complain at being left out of decision-making, while the MQM, to no one’s surprise, has already drawn its dagger over the control of the lucrative Karachi Building Control Authority, the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, the anti-dacoit operation in Lyari which could not last for more than one day leaving the area in greater peril, and transfers of officers.

So fragile is the coalition that as a measure of insurance the PPP appears to be repairing its fences with the PML-Q which it branded ‘Qatil’ League. The country is buried deep in enormous difficulties and those at the helm are way out of their depth. The vanquished masses are even angrier then before at the much trumpeted reconciliation turning out to be a hoax and another name for intrigue and back stabbing, possibly paving the way for a new military takeover or a bloody revolution.

The writer is chairman of the Sindh National Front

Source: The News, 28/5/2008

 Posted by at 8:20 am

Leave a Reply

en English
%d bloggers like this: