Jan 31, 2011

Politics of reconciliation, again

Are the political parties ready to trust each other one more time?
By Salman Abid

The word “reconciliation” has gained importance in our present political scenario and needs to be focused upon by the political players. In the recent past, the trend of cheap point-scoring on almost every issue has gained currency among the opposition and treasury benches in the parliament.

Serious challenges like the war against terrorism, extremism, bad governance and, above all, poverty are being confronted. It was a breath of fresh air for the people to see Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif developing a consensus in 2006 to rebuild the nation on the principal of reconciliation and signed the Charter of Democracy.

There was political wisdom in the admission of both the leaders when they said that they had acted like puppets in the hands of the establishment. Later, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto caused irreparable loss to the nation, especially to the philosophy of reconciliation. For me, it is a source of great satisfaction that President Zardari proved himself to be a torch-bearer of reconciliation inside and outside the parliament.

The coalition government comprising PML-F, PML-N, PML-Q, ANP, JUI, MQM is making their presence felt while getting their share in the power-sharing formula. At one time, we were expecting certain changes in the Prime Minister’s House since JUI and MQM had vowed to sit in the opposition benches.

Then, later, Nawaz Sharif presented his ten-point agenda to be implemented quickly or he threatened that ministers of PPP would be kicked out of the Punjab government. Here, President Zardari seems to have prevailed and succeeded in bringing dissenting partners back to treasury benches.

Everyone heaved us a sigh of relief and pro-democracy elements looked delighted. The Titanic of the coalition government was saved from sinking amid hopes that government would complete its tenure comfortably. But I have my reservations. It seems national interest is not being preferred over personal interests. This does not augur well. The power players should walk their talk because this is the only way to support the philosophy of reconciliation.

This political exercise is really significant for the political elite, but it is totally meaningless to the people of Pakistan who are facing back-breaking inflation, increasing crimes, poor health facilities, and fewer economic opportunities.

Providing relief to the downtrodden Pakistanis should be the top priority of the leaders. But the situation is just the opposite. The MQM and JUI are eager to grab portfolios of their own choice and redress of the ousting of JUI-F minister from the federal cabinet.

It would be a contradiction in the working of leadership to go on enjoying power in the provincial government and doing opposition in the National Assembly and Senate. It can be predicted that sooner or later, both the JUI and MQM would rejoin the federal cabinet and begin to enjoy the power once again.

A problem of the coalition partners is that they do not stand by the government through thick and thin. For example, at the time of enforcement of RGST and increasing of petrol prices coalition partners betrayed the PPP and left it alone. In my view, and explanation of the contradictory behaviour of the coalition government is that they lack sincerity, therefore, they are not ready to share responsibility, especially during a crisis.

It would be in the interest of the PPP as a party to minimize the difference between its speech and practice, particularly over decisions like announcement of the RGST and petrol prices. Both the decisions were withdrawn showing the failure of policy making and good governance. It is not particularly a good example for the PPP Sindh to go on compromising with its partners in the name of reconciliation only to secure the government.

The issue of accountability and transparency should be seriously addressed since this is the right way of making a positive image of the PPP among the masses. Till now, these two issues have not been properly taken up by the PPPP government.

In today’s context, creating religious harmony should also be a cause in addition to political reconciliation efforts. Apparently, this does not seem to on the agenda of political players. It is quite easy to understand that if this job remains incomplete democratic elements will be no more and militant elements will regain power.

We can hope for a better future if our political forces continue bringing forth the fruits of reconciliation like the National Finance Commission award, and 18th and 19th Amendments. The concept of reconciliation has been debated very much; it now needs to be put into practice. We should become pragmatic towards rebuilding Pakistan as a tolerant, free from corruption, economically self reliant, and a democratic and tolerant society to live in.

If we agree that the philosophy of reconciliation is a panacea for us then it should not just be the job of the government, but a duty of the civil society and intelligentsia to come forward and get engaged with the political forces by creating awareness among the masses.

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