As uncertainty grips Pakistan, leaders prefer to stay away

By Ansar AbbasiISLAMABAD: At a time when everyone is genuinely disturbed by the prevailing political and economic uncertainty, the top political leadership of the country and those at the helm of affairs are out of the country, on one pretext or another.

Not only the heads of the two main coalition parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), are abroad, the prime minister along with almost half of his cabinet is conspicuously absent from the country as well.

As boredom and a sense of gloom descends upon the masses and hopes in the political leadership of the country fade, the most powerful political figure of the country Asif Ali Zardari has chosen to stay away from the country, perhaps for weeks.

Custodians of the two houses of parliament are away too. Speaker National Assembly Fehmida Mirza is in Saudi Arabia to perform Umra and Senate Chairman Muhammadmian Soomro is in the United States.

Asif Ali Zardari had visited Turkey, Greece and London and is now in Dubai and is going back to London with no schedule for his return in sight. According to the PPP spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, the party co-chairman was originally scheduled to return on July 4 but his return was later postponed.

Babar said Zardari may proceed to London from Dubai and in that case he would possibly return by July 12. Otherwise, he predicted, the PPP strongman could return in a day or two. In Zardari’s absence, the chief executive of the country Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his elaborate entourage are on an official visit to Malaysia.

Instead of returning home from Malaysia, the prime minister along with his delegation flew to Dubai on Wednesday where Asif Ali Zardari had convened an important meeting of his key party men and wanted Gilani to attend.

At least, three federal ministers, including Minister for Information Sherry Rehman, Minister for Kashmir Affairs Qamar Zaman Kaira and Minister for Labour Syed Khurshid Shah, were also summoned to Dubai to attend the same meeting.

The PM’s entourage does not include any federal minister but Hina Rabbani Khar, who is the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Finance and Economic Affairs, is with him. Several senior bureaucrats, including Principal Secretary to PM Siraj Shamsuddin and Additional Secretary PM Secretariat Abdul Malik Abdullah, are also accompanying the prime minister on this foreign tour.

Prime Minister Gilani, his delegation and the three federal ministers called to Dubai by Asif Ali Zardari are likely to return to Pakistan on Thursday. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has gone to the United States to take up the issue of Benazir Bhutto’s murder probe with the United Nation’s Secretary General. Qureshi is scheduled to return on July 17.

Law Minister Farooq A Naek is not in Pakistan also. He has gone to London to attend an international conference. Naek would be back on July 14. PML-N Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif is in London in connection with the treatment of his wife Begum Kulsoom Nawaz. The PML-N chief had gone to London on July 3 and his return is also unclear. According to Pervez Rashid, the PML-N spokesman, there is no fixed date for Sharif’s return.

Rashid said the PML-N chief might not come back to Pakistan before one week. He said Nawaz Sharif wanted to be present during some important stages of her spouse’s treatment. PML-N senior leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is also in London and there is no indication of his return schedule.

Today, the country badly requires its top leaders, including those sitting in the cabinet, to put their heads together and burn the midnight oil to devise ways to confront the momentous challenges facing the country.

In the absence of the top leadership of the two leading coalition partners, there is complete uncertainty regarding the future of the coalition. The second-tier leadership of both parties is clueless as to what is going to happen next.

 

Source: The News, 10/7/2008

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