Politics in 2009

Daily: Pakistan Observer
Date: 27.09.08

It seems that Nawaz Sharif is disgruntled at the Presidential address of Asif Ali Zardari.
Nawaz might have expected a clear-worded display of the will to surrender the powers
concentrated in the office of the president by virtue of the Seventeenth Constitutional
Amendment. Instead, Asif requested the Parliament to constitute a committee to look into
the matter. By inference, it means that Asif is disposed to keep some of the key powers with
the office of the president – even if the notorious Article 58 (2) (b) is to be done away with.
Nawaz is bound to be annoyed at.

The PPP has only one obstacle in its way of exercising full fledge command over the state
affairs: absence of the two-third majority to introduce the Eighteenth Constitutional
Amendment in the Parliament. The PPP requires the Amendment desperately to award de
jure status to the incumbent de facto Supreme Court being headed by Justice Abdul
Hameed Dogar. With that not only the NRO will be constitutionally protected but also the
Nov-3 acts of the ex-President General Pervaiz Musharraf will get indemnified. In a way, the
future of many lies in the favourable forthcoming Amendment.

To achieve that end, the PPP has two options: firstly, take the help of the PML-N, and
secondly, go forward without the help of the PML-N. In the former proposition, however, the
deposed judiciary has to be reinstated (but not re-employed). Nevertheless, as the things
are unfolding, reinstatement of the deposed judges does not match with the aspirations
being harboured by the PPP. The deposed judges of the Supreme Court had quashed the
NRO and declared the Nov-3 PCO in contravention to the Constitution. So the interests of
both Musharraf and Asif cannot be served by reinstatement of the Nov-2 judiciary. In this
context, it seems that underneath the ongoing situation, there is active a minus-two formula,
the one portion of which has been completed: departure of Musharraf. Nevertheless, the
second branch of the formula is underway: ejection of the deposed Chief Justice, Iftikhar
Mohammad Chaudhry.

The PPP has purposely adopted the policy of abandoning the PML-N in the midway and
opted for joining hands with the comparatively smaller political parties ranging from the ANP
to the MQM to help the PPP pass the forthcoming Amendment. These smaller parties may
have been assured of fulfilling the pledges made by the PPP in contrary to the case where
the PPP dealt with the PML-N. The aim of the PPP is to win maximum or all seats of the
Senate in March 2009 when the next elections are due.

For the immediate gains of passing the Amendment, the hotchpotch of the political parties
may be feasible but may not be so in the long run. These parties come with their own
agendas to be fulfilled and if find an opportunity to join hands with the ruling party, the PPP,
the smaller parties try to haul out maximum and render the ruling party to compromise
more. On the one hand, the dispensation becomes a great display of democracy where
both major and minor political parties are running the government by accommodating each
other. On the other hand, the mix brings enormous strain on the ruling party (which is a
major party in this case) as the ruling party faces the risk of losing votes and electoral
constituencies, due to the disgruntled voters, in the next general elections to the rival major
party (which is the PML-N in this case).

To cut the long story short, as a policy of appeasement, the PPP has to give away
ministries (mostly in the centre) to its allies who are in abundance. These allies in turn are
supposed to take care of their voters and not of the PPP whether it is Sind or NWFP. The
PPP may be in delusion that notwithstanding the situation the PPP voter does change
allegiance. That is fine! But has the PPP foreseen only one PPP in the next general
elections? That is, the PPP seems fail to realize two points: it has to contest the next
general elections without the towering personality like late Benazir Bhutto shaheed, and
secondly, there is a possibility of emergence of more than one PPP to contest the next
elections.

But this is not the end of the story. By the next general elections, the PPP has to keep the
masses satisfied on the inflation and law and order fronts. Further, in the meantime, the
constitutional turmoil is the next hurdle the PPP has to cross over. In this post-election
euphoria and the post-Musharraf democratic rapture, the division within the ranks of the
PPP may not be visible. The cracks may get noticeable as the time goes by and the
weaknesses in the governance are exposed.

Sometimes, it seems that the division in the PPP ranks is inevitable. So by speculations, in
the next general elections, there is a possibility of more than one PPP taking part but
claiming the lineage of Bhutto either from paternal or maternal sides. Had Benazir not come
to Pakistan in 2007 before the general elections, there was a possibility of two PPPs
participating in the elections. Timely arrival of Benazir precluded the situation.
Nevertheless, the danger is not over. Mistakes and weaknesses of the PPP run by Asif are
bound to open a space for the rival PPP to rear its head. In case the PPP, under the co-
chairmanship of Asif, fails to garner enough seats in the Senate (in March 2009) to
materialize the two-third majority in the Parliament (without the help of the PML-N), another
PPP may come into action much before the next general elections.

It seems that the flagrant violation of the written agreement by the PPP which it had signed
with the PML-N has triggered the process of difficulties for the PPP. The PPP may be
thinking of the small term gains like the March 2009 Senate election-win episode. In case, it
fails on this account, the degeneration of the ruling PPP will set in.  

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