Riddance of democracy

Daily: Pakistan Observer
Date: 15.11.08

Consolidation of power seems the immediate objective of the incumbent government. Deep
in there lies the element of insecurity which has given birth to inclusion of a regiment of
ministers crossing the number fifty.

On the pattern of the national government, a multitude of politicians have been invited to
join hands with the ruling party, the PPP, to fill up the gap created when the PML-N
deserted the treasury benches and came out of coalition with the PPP in agitation to non-
restoration of the deposed (afunctional) judges. If the pledges had been honoured by the
PPP, there would not have been a large gathering of the politicians as it is now. The
coalition of the PPP and the PML-N could have accommodated lesser ministers and would
have performed better, but who cares?

Heavy inclusions have unnerved none but the PML-Q, which is now experiencing a
confirmed divide: the Chaudhrys are on the one side while the dissidents headed by Hamid
Nasir Chatha are on the other plane. Virtually, the conjectured degeneration of the PML-Q
has set in. The benefactor of the PML-Q, General retired Pervaiz Musharraf, would be
feeling unsettled, as all the efforts of Musharraf are being consigned to the dust bin of
history. The party which stood third in the recently held elections is about to be reduced to
its size – much to chagrin of Musharraf.

Inside the PML-Q, the phenomenon of opportunism is in full swing. The Chaudhrys have
been left behind because neither are they required by the PPP nor are they demanded by
the PML-N. The loyalty of the Chaudhrys to Musharraf is all set to cost them heavily.
Nevertheless, there is a hope that the Chaudhrys may still be required by the PML-N for a
working relationship – and not for a coalition – in case the government of the PML-N in
Punjab is in jeopardy. But it cannot happen unless the Chaudhrys seek divorce from even
the shadow of Musharraf.

Nawaz Sharif of the PML-N is holding the Charter of Democracy dearer to him. The new
face of Nawaz is now a proponent of reconciliation and against exploiting weaknesses of the
other political parties. The act of the PPP to push the party of Nawaz, the PML-N, to the wall
is being tolerated under the spirit of the Charter. Interestingly, on the one side, Nawaz is
honouring his words and upholding his pledges; on the other side, Zardari is reneging from
his words and violating his vows. It is yet to be seen what the limit of tolerance of Nawaz is.

The attitude of tolerance practised by Nawaz towards the PPP is also contributing to
rejection of the Chaudhrys by the PPP. Some still say that the PPP is in need of the PML-Q
minus the Chaudhrys; almost same is the requirement of the PML-N. In this scenario what
could be the political future of the Chaudhrys is yet to be seen. One may say that the
Chaudhrys are being forced to fall back on their mentor, Musharraf. A few days ago, there
appeared an item of news that Musharraf had been trying to condescend the economic
performance of the incumbent government. For the Chaudhrys the ray of hope is
reactivation of Musharraf backed by the army to dictate the political terms to the nation
once again – if dreams were the horses.

Nevertheless, the time to decide is approaching for the PML-N fast. The incumbent bench
of the Supreme Court has issued a notice to Nawaz regarding his candidature eligibility for
the parliament. Nawaz is supposed to respond in the next date of hearing which is almost in
the mid of this month, November. So far, the government of the PPP has been pleading the
case on behalf of Nawaz. This practice may not be followed in the future – expectedly so. If
the decision of disqualification of Nawaz is issued, the politics of the country is bound to
take a new turn. On the other hand, if Nawaz decides to plead the case through his
solicitor, it will be tantamount to recognizing the Court which will be in sharp contrast to the
stand hitherto taken by Nawaz. None the less, it seems that the government intends to
disengage itself from the case and has decided to leave it up to Nawaz what course he
intends to follow.

In Lahore, the lawyers’ movement is donning new attire. The movement is embracing an
element of agitation, which is more than sheer protest. On November 4, the District Courts
were locked in protest to the Nov-3 (2007) acts of Musharraf. An FIR has been lodged
mentioning more than fifty lawyers as culprits but the proceeding has been kept in
abeyance. All this is bringing an anti-PPP tinge to the lawyers’ movement at least in Lahore.
Slogans against Asif Ali Zardari are being shouted in and around the Bars. If the Governor
of Punjab, Salman Taseer, takes a direct action against the lawyers by calling the rangers
for help, the Government of Punjab will not be able to stand neutral. The more anti-Zardari
element creeps in the lawyers’ movement, the more are the chances of collision between
the centre and the province of Punjab.

On the one side, the Sharif brothers are pushed by the incumbent Supreme Court to plead
their case before they are declared ineligible to contest elections; on the other side, the
lawyers’ movement is attaining an anti-centre colour to compel the Sharif brothers to stand
either with Zardari or with the lawyers. In other words, for the Sharif brothers, on the one
side is the Charter of Democracy; on the other side is the election manifesto of the party to
restore the deposed (afunctional) judges of the Supreme and Higher Courts. For the Sharif
brothers, the time is running out to decide.

An ominous silence is staring the country indicating that democracy is under a great risk, if
someone could let Zardari know.

Back to columns in 2008