Crises unending-M B Naqvi

In its first 100 days the Gilani government has tried to hunt with the hounds and run with the hare. It has no clear positions on the economic and political crises that engulf the country. No matter what crises it faces, a government has to decide upon contentious issues. What is stopping this government from taking a firm line?

The PPP should recognise that Musharraf is the root cause of most troubles for Pakistan, and that so long as he remains president the crises will continue to blight the country’s political life. Meanwhile, the PPP should have the gumption to say no to the Americans, taking an independent stance on countering the threat from Islamic extremists in its own way, without the benefit of American advice or help. An independent foreign policy requires a grim determination that Pakistan get out of its crises, including the economic one, mainly by its own efforts.

The politicians should get their political act together. That would include their agreed vision on sorting out the political and economic difficulties and to mobilise the people.

The US is still insisting that Musharraf should be kept as a supremo for leading Pakistanis into the War on Terror. He has some political support in the country: he can still collect quite a number that, with the PPP, can underpin a new government. The PPP is committed to keeping Musharraf in his place for keeping its relationship with the Americans intact as its own insurance policy. He is not really outside the loop because the Americans want him in the government through the Saudi Royals, who support both Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf.

The formal opposition is limited to the APDM parties. They are not a force in Parliament. But in their own areas, some of these parties are significant and their opinions cannot be ignored. The next category is the lawyers’ movement, the bulk of civil society, important sections of the media, many professional groups represented by retired ambassadors, generals and academics.

Then, there is another wholly different kind of opposition: the Islamic extremists like the Taliban and al-Qaeda and the other extremist Islamic groups. Today they are against Musharraf and his friends in Washington and London. But they can also become friends of the West, as they were in the 1980s and 1990s.

Asif Ali Zardari has to take a firm stance where he stands and where he wants to take Pakistan. He talks of the president being unconstitutional and illegitimate but impeachment is not yet on his agenda. But he has to take a definite stance even over fighting the Islamic extremists, whether the way Americans want or differently. He had earlier given indications that he would fight the Islamic extremism by political methodology.

Does he or does he not think that Pakistanis should have a more nuanced policy of applying democratic methodology and submerging extremism in a flood of other political ideas and activities? The solution in this case begins with integrating the FATA and PATA areas into the NWFP. Applying all the laws of Pakistan to all newer parts of the NWFP and giving them all the economic help for construction of a modern economy with whatever foreign help may be available. Otherwise, the area’s own resources must be mobilised; a lot of cash is floating around there. Let that be saved productively and let the state start constructing proper infrastructure for a modern economy to be built.

He has to take a lot more decisions apart from keeping his party intact. On top of the list is restoration of the deposed judges, which remains a political imperative. Today a controversial Supreme Court is being run by Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar. It is a dangerous situation in which there is another Supreme Court whose legitimacy is widely recognised. This can, in theory, lead to civil war if the issue is allowed to persist.

The question about the future of Mr. Musharraf awaits a firm decision. Either he has to be accepted or sent home. There is no middle way, and without this decision the judges’ issue cannot be resolved.

There are many political reforms on which decisions are needed. For instance, there is the autonomy demand from Balochistan, Sindh and Pakhtoonkhwa. The initial step can be taken by cancelling the concurrent list of the constitution. This should have been done more than 20 years ago. One thing has also to be decided once and for all: whether, for the purposes of the common people, the central government is the main government or the provincial governments would be the real government. That would mean redesigning bureaucratic structures both at the centre and provinces and re-division of financial powers. Division of river waters, dams and the ownership of under-the-surface resources, all require firm, honest and patriotic decisions.

The writer is a veteran journalist and freelance columnist. Email: mbnaqvi

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