Feb 27, 2009
On way to armageddon
THE claims by the PPP and PML(N) leadership of having been wiser after the 1988-99 struggles that led to unhappy endings for both have turned out to be hollow. The only difference this time is that they have taken full one year instead of the customary few months to fly at each other's jugular. The unseemly rough-and-tumble fight that is going to unfold would be watched with glee by those waiting in the wings to destabilise democracy. This would provide the establishment yet another argument to prove that the politicians are unable to rule the country. Mian Nawaz Sharif claims that the decision to disqualify him and Mian Shahbaz was in fact dictated by Mr Zardari and constitutes a stab in the back. President's spokesman Farhatullah Babar and Information Minister Sherry Rahman have strongly rejected the claim. The indecent haste with which the Governor's rule has been imposed is cited by the PML(N) as evidence of a pre-planned move aimed at depriving it of its mandate through political engineering that robbed the PPP of its right to rule Sindh in 2003. There are many who think that the best way after the SC's decision would have been to maintain the PPP-PML(N) alliance in Punjab and let the ruling coalition choose a new Chief Minister. The decision to go for the kill was presumably taken at the instance of elements in the PPP spearheaded by Governor Salman Taseer who were itching to capture Punjab irrespective of the consequences for the country or the PPP itself. The dreams for a tolerant political culture and a viable democracy have been shattered. With uncertainty gripping the country, questions are being raised if the government would be able to complete its tenure. The administration, which was so far concentrating on curbing militancy, has opened a new front which is likely to assume the centre place. The PML(N) is left with no option but to go full steam for the lawyers' long march and sit-in. The agitation by the opposition combined with the lawyers movement could generate a synergy that was lacking so far on account of the PML(N) leadership's by and large lukewarm support for the lawyers. The disqualification of the PML(N) leaders through a judicial fiat rather than political process combined with Governor's rule and putting locks on the Assembly's entrance where the PML(N) enjoys the trust of the majority could unleash a sense of deprivation in the province and cast a long lingering shadow on the fortunes of the PPP in the largest province of the country. President Zardari needs to seriously weigh the consequences. He alone is in a position to call the ugly standoff to a halt. For this there is need on his part to employ whatever legal, constitutional and administrative means are available to him to undo the disqualification of the Sharifs and maintain the PPP-PML(N) alliance in Punjab.