Old predictions and new —Syed Mansoor Hussain

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If the Taliban keep blowing up schools and attacking ordinary citizens, in time they will lose the support of conservative Muslims and their support base in the country, especially if the US starts withdrawing from Afghanistan

The first thing I write for this newspaper every year is a set of predictions for the year coming up and then go back to my predictions from the previous year (“Old predictions and new”, Daily Times, January 7, 2008) and see what I got wrong and what I was right about.

First, what I got wrong: it was about three presidents. I had gone out on a limb to predict that former Vice President Al Gore will be the consensus candidate for the Democratic Party. I was absolutely and totally wrong about that one.

Then I implied that General Pervez Musharraf would try and stay on as president for as long as possible. He left much earlier and much more easily than expected, surprising almost everyone. And, most importantly, I did not even imagine the possibility that Mr Asif Ali Zardari would become the next President of Pakistan.

In my predictions about the elections in 2008, I had stated that: “If the elections are not rigged then I believe that in spite of all the advantages at the disposal of the party previously in power, the PPP and the PMLN will win a majority of the seats in the national assembly. The PPP will, in my opinion, get a decisive plurality if not a majority. The Nawaz League will be second and the PMLQ will come third.”

I was substantially correct about that.

As far as the provinces were concerned, I said, “…in the Punjab, the Nawaz League will emerge as the biggest party with the PMLQ and the PPP essentially tied for second place. The Nawaz League will most likely be in a position to form a government as a senior partner in a coalition. However, the Nawaz League might prefer to make a coalition with the PMLQ remnants rather than the PPP.”

Right about the first part and not proven wrong about the second yet.

As far as the NWFP and Balochistan are concerned, I was generally correct, though I thought that the MMA would have a larger presence in Balochistan. About Sindh I had said: “The PPP will probably win enough seats to form a government in Sindh, whether it can then work with the MQM in…Karachi will be the big question.”

Of all things, I am happily surprised that the MQM and the PPP are working together in Sindh and so far seem to be getting along well. I was also happily surprised when the PPP and the N-League decided to join hands in the Punjab and the centre. That these two parties now seem to be on the verge of going their separate ways is sad but in my opinion was unavoidable.

So now on to my predictions for the year 2009, but now I will also make predictions on some non-political matters.

First, about the presidency, Mr Asif Ali Zardari will continue to be president barring some extremely unusual happening. I also believe strongly that with time he will grow into the office due to the unique challenges he and the country face today.

About the prime minister, Mr Gilani, I believe that he will also be in office for this year and that the relationship between the president and the prime minister will become more balanced with time. Historically, even when Pakistan had a parliamentary system of government, most of the time the president (and before that, the governor-general) ran things. Of the three prime ministers that were more powerful than the head of the state, two were assassinated (Liaquat Ali Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) and one (Nawaz Sharif) was jailed and subsequently exiled.

Considering the Punjab, I believe that Mr Shahbaz Sharif and the PMLN will continue to run the province even as a minority government that is functionally what they have at this point. The PMLN government cannot be toppled since the PMLQ will not support a no-confidence move against Mr Shahbaz Sharif.

And, Mr Sharif is extremely unlikely to ask the Governor of Punjab to dissolve his government and ask for re-elections since he cannot become chief minister again. In the other provinces, I expect nothing much to change.

There are three important variables that can change much and so some predictions about them too.

The first important variable is, of course, the role of the US administration that comes into power on January 20. I do not believe that Barack Obama will try and escalate or destabilise the situation along our western borders.

The second variable is the Indian response to the carnage in Mumbai. Whatever the Indians might want to do, and they are indeed chomping at the bit, the US is unlikely to support any military action by the Indians against Pakistan — an important advantage of being a US ally and having US bases in the country.

The third variable is internal terrorism and creeping Talibanisation. If the Taliban keep blowing up schools and attacking ordinary citizens, in time they will lose the support of conservative Muslims and their support base in the country, especially if the US starts withdrawing from Afghanistan.

And now to a few other predictions.

It is extremely unlikely that the ex-CJ will ever be restored. The best use of the lawyers’ movement is to send all the protesting lawyers to Wahgah every Thursday morning so that they can invade India and conquer Delhi.

Sadly, the Punjab government will find some reason to cancel Basant again this year. And worse, dancing in dramas both in public as well as on TV is somehow going to be curtailed in the Punjab.

About load shedding. Many people in positions where we expect that they know what they are talking about insist that load shedding will end this year. I tend to believe them. If present trends continue, we will have no loads to shed anyway.

Fortunately, present trends never continue.

Syed Mansoor Hussain has practised and taught medicine in the US. He can be reached at smhmbbs70@yahoo.com

Reproduced by permission of DT



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