Daily: The Statesman
“I am not [biting my fingernails]. I am biting my knuckles. I finished the fingernails months
ago” said Joseph Mankiewicz in 1909 while directing Cleopatra.
In the national political scene in Pakistan, if the year 2009 is dedicated to biting fingernails
and waiting with anxiety what happens next, the year 2010 can safely be donated to biting
knuckles and preparing for the decisive turn of events.
At last, under a pang of conscience, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani has acknowledged
that procrastination in implementation of the CoD has created a wedge of mistrust between
the two major political parties, the PPP and the PML-N. The realization is not too late. There
is still time to mend fences and revive the spirit of bonhomie existed between the two main
parties in the year 2008.
But then importance of the CoD is meant not only for trust reconstruction but also for
keeping the non-democratic factors out of domain of politics. The way the omen of conflicts
popped up in the last days of the year 2009 when President Asif Ali Zardari “confessed”
more than sixty items of “guilt” while delivering a speech at Nau Daro, Sind (on the eve of
death anniversary of late Benazir Bhutto), the year 2010 holds potential to add fuel to the
proverbial fire. Confrontation with establishment may be in the offing; gloomy
prognostications are in abundance. To what extent the military prevails over its predatory
(political) instinct will be judged in the year 2010? Nevertheless, the year 2009 has passed
but no tangible development has taken place to apprehending the culprit who
masterminded the plan of assassination of Benazir. The question is if the culprit was
Baitullah Mehsud and when he is dead, what is the UN investigation mission doing around?
In the lexicon of a calendar, the next year is the beginning of a new time period but in the
stream of time, the next year is a carry-over artefact of the previous year. What is done
today the fruits of that are reaped tomorrow. On December 31, 2009, the Local
Government System (LGS) erected by the regime of General Pervaiz Musharraf died of its
natural death owing to indifference of the present political players towards continuation of
the system. In the context of Pakistan, it is not the functional significance of a system to let
decide its fate, it is the factor of legacy which is enough to decide the future of a project.
One of the major problems with the LGS is that it is the legacy of a military dictator. But then
the LGS is protected under the constitution through Article 270AA (Seventeenth
Constitutional Amendment). It means that in 2010 a Pandora box will be opened, the courts
will be flooded with constitutional writ petitions, and protests will be staged under the
leadership of Danyal Aziz, the proponent of the LGS, to defend the constitutional position of
the LGS (unless the system is changed through another constitutional amendment) leading
to another milieu of confrontation.
One of the basic flaws in the ongoing experience of democracy is that it was perched on the
hinges of the NRO. The year 2009 was about the NRO’s future (which was made bleak by
the Supreme Court); the year 2010 is going to be about the future of those benefitted by
the NRO. The presidential immunity enshrined in the constitution may be enough to keep
Zardari in the safe background but what about other beneficiaries. That question has
brought a section of the media against the sitting government. Resultantly, the year 2010
may be provisioned for – a sort of – confrontation between the government and the media.
Two major achievements of the present government at the federal level are issuance of the
Balochistan package and proclamation of the NFC award. The efforts were to appease the
federating units by addressing their grievances. But one of the demands of Balochistan was
provincial autonomy. Hardly has any word uttered about that. To what extent the package
and the award are proved substitutes for provincial autonomy is yet to be seen. The source
of conflict holds potential to prejudice chances of success of both package and award for
Balochistan: political dimension of the issue may overshadow economic aspect.
Nevertheless, in sequel to the NFC, the centre has been left with less economic resources
than before. Will the centre pare down its non-development expenditures will be seen in the
The war on terror is the next issue. The war used to be a problem before the year 2009
and unless the war was owned. The de facto position is that the war is Pakistan’s war and
the US (and the likeminded) are just helping Pakistan monetarily and economically to let
Pakistan deal with the war. Of course, Pakistan is first: Pakistan would have withdrawn had
it been the second. The blood and bomb conflict may continue between the disgruntled
citizens and the assertive state: Pakistanis may be punished for not influencing the
government for withdrawing from the ownership of the war. Whether another Iraq is
reincarnating in Pakistan is yet to be seen.
With the advent of the year 2010, Pakistanis have heard the war frenzied statements
coming from the Indian military top brass. The pugnacious mood has been shown when the
‘Amin key Asha’ programme has just been jointly launched by the major media groups of
both India and Pakistan. The war-mongering statement has proved that the Indian army is
also a party to peace in the region. What would Advocate Asma Jehangir say now who used
to heap criticism on Pakistan army for its jingoistic approach thereby becoming an obstacle
to peace between the two countries? It is yet to decipher what exactly prompted the Indian
military to issue the statement before the traditional India-Pakistan military rivalry could yield
some nasty results in the year 2010.
Finger nails have been bitten: the era of anxiety is over. It is now the turn of the knuckles:
the decision time has arrived. Welcome the year 2010!
Back to columns in 2010