Feb 28, 2009

Coup d'etat

Hit and run
When General Musharraf was in power and decided to sack Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, and then felt the force of the discontent his move created, there were many in and out of government who questioned the wisdom of opening yet another front. Bad advice, a big ego, and the belief that he was actually popular enough to do just about anything can be explanations. The truth might never be known as when the proverbial excrement hit the fan, the sycophants distanced themselves from the General and let him take the heat. No one would answer the question "why" to any satisfaction other than strange explanations about the misuse of a car and fuel allowance. We all know in the end that the General and his Banker wanted a Chief Justice who would do their bidding and theirs alone, but it still left the nation asking the question why and was it really necessary to rock the boat. Today, a day after the Supreme Court bench decided to declare the Sharif brothers ineligible for public office, the same question is being asked of Zardari and his coterie – at this juncture in our history where we are facing so many pressures from different quarters, is it really necessary to create more schisms in our country? Pakistan has a long and undignified history of coup d'├ętats, both civilian and military, in its sixty-two years of existence. Unfortunately, it has been the judiciary, which has aided and abetted each and every one of these coups and their makers. As a country our political evolution remains stunted because of our leaders' fragile egos and the belief that there can only be one supreme leader and that power cannot be shared. Our feudal mindset tells our leaders that there can only be one Chaudhry in the village. And so the circus goes on at the expense of the very people our leaders are supposed to serve and take forth into the 21st century. Punjab finds itself without a chief minister overnight and the province under governor's rule for a period of two months. No doubt these two months will see political wrangling at a scale, which only Punjab has seen for centuries. Alliances will shift, cash will move from account to account, statements made; finally something will be crafted in true Frankenstein fashion, and presented to the people. The problem is that the Sharif brothers are extremely popular in Punjab. Shahbaz Sharif is an administrator with a knack for making things happen, and this is something even his political opponents acknowledge. A year into the PML-N's unnatural alliance with the PPP, things have finally come to a head. Mostly the disagreement was based on two main points – the first was the PML-N's support of the lawyers movement which seeks to reinstate Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, and the second was the appointment of Salman Taseer as the Governor of Punjab. Neither disagreement was big enough to warrant the removal of Shahbaz Sharif as the chief minister of Punjab especially at a time of crisis.With FATA ablaze, Swat having fallen to a band of thugs disguising themselves as religious clerics, and the economy hurting from different body blows creating unemployment, was it really necessary to rock the boat in the largest province in the country? The immediate fallout for the PPP led government is going to be that the PML-N will join the lawyers' movement. This will put the lawyers, the PML-N, the Jamaat-e-Islami, and Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaaf in one boat. With the PML-N onboard, the movement will create a momentum that was not previously possible – instead of hunting down jihadi elements law-enforcement agencies will be tied up with containing the lawyers' movement. The PPP working out a deal with the PML-Q will also be a bitter pill for PPP stalwarts who spent many of the five years of the PML-Q rule in the clinker or being persecuted by them. Zardari called them the "Qatil" (murderer) League after the assassination of his wife, Benazir Bhutto. Yet, today he is willing to sit down and break bread with the notorious Chaudhrys. With Asif Zardari taking over the leadership of the PPP, the old guard was wary, yet it went along. Surviving a coalition with the PML-Q will be much more trying. President Zardari has been dancing on a tight rope and has managed to surprise everyone watching the circus from near and afar. The question most commentators will ask is how long his lucky streak will last. The bigger question is that he is playing a dangerous game at the expense of the people of Pakistan and with their future. The coup in Punjab was badly timed and unnecessary and will have repercussions which none of the architects will have foreseen as is usually the case. The federation is weak and at a time when it needed political unity among the larger parties, the PPP has entered into yet another mistimed constitutional adventure. Sometimes I wonder if there should be a mandatory IQ Test for our leaders before they take the oath.

No comments:

Post a Comment