The Pakistan Report Card: Establishment in the lead

Fasi Zaka

The 100 days are over. The promises did not materialize, but a realization is coming to fruition. The crises the country is facing are creating an order where the status quo of the establishment is winning.

The rainbow coalition and the hopes within have dissolved in a carcass of empty promises. As Asif Ali Zardari continues to move the PPP into a situation where the coalition members feel increasingly disenfranchised, ultimately a split will have to take place. In that situation the government’s new partners will be the lackeys of the previous military government. In the early days of the government, it seemed as if the co-chairman of the PPP was ready for a snap election if he couldn’t do what he needed without compromising. If his actions have been of any indication, he will not under any case allow for elections now, he will happily break from his stance to partner with Musharraf in a deal that allows for mutual face saving.

In essence at that point nothing will have changed. With a public that is increasingly feeling the noose tighten with the rapid increase in prices, a law and order situation that is increasingly running out of control, there is a chance that the people will not be disappointed by the sell-out on the promise of democracy and good governance as long as some semblance of control, the provision of relief and writ is re-established.

It will be a golden opportunity loss for this country because it seemed that these elections and the coalition were out to zoom in for the kill on special interest groups, intergovernmental departments and intelligence agency interests.

The sooner Nawaz Sharif realizes the writing on the wall the better, it’s time for him to head to splitsville. But, tragically, he isn’t that innocent party in this turn of events as is generally perceived. His party gave the go-ahead on the finance bill that made a travesty on the promises for the restoration of the judiciary. Had Nawaz not been disqualified by a PCO judge, in all likelihood we have seen him endorse a sell-out on the issue of an independent judiciary.

And again, the establishment will be doing well because of the macroeconomic situation. It’s obvious that the government is doing nothing less than reacting to a situation where the world economic order is undergoing a fundamental change. The current situation requires older economic managers who saw similar situations during the 1970s, and not the ones who understood their trade at a time when both inflation and scarcity were no longer issues over the past two decades. Add to this a situation where the Taliban have become a home-grown variety, the people have started to look to the dominions of power in the military to provide relief through action.

That emboldens Musharraf, and greases the wheels of Zardari into an unholy union that looks more and more likely to be consummated.

We are in for a rude shock if this is realized. The economic situation will continue to deteriorate for several years now as the world’s economic engine continues to slow down. The shortages in electricity and even essential grains will not be resolved in the immediate future. A disenfranchised population will continue to suffer and inequality will continue to a point where the government shall assume far greater importance than it has now. There is a chance now that in the future the government could become the engine of economic growth should doomsday economic theories turn true.

But in the hands of a government that is aligning itself with establishment forces in bad governance that hold government machinery hostage to personal benefit, we could be heading into a time where the inequalities, the lack of law seem quaintly innocuous as things begin to deteriorate.

Better now that the coalition splits, there is no ideological unity left. We need an opposition to organize now – otherwise we will be in no position to rein in the establishment (sadly of which the PPP has become a part) in becoming authoritarian once again.

The writer is a Rhodes scholar and former academic. Email: fasizaka@
The News, 10/7/2008

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