Dreadful brinkmanship
Mohammad Jamil


Mindful of the dreadful consequences of the internecine conflict and clash between the institutions, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had a few words of caution for the political parties, pillars of the state and institutions, urging them to go by the book'.

Addressing the Martyrs' Day ceremony at General Headquarters the other day he said: "The Constitution of Pakistan has clearly delineated the responsibilities and roles of the national institutions. It is now our responsibility that we resolve our issues, while remaining within the constitutional limits, in a manner that it increases respect and dignity of both our country and ourselves."
He kept his neutrality and did not take sides in the political face-off between the political parties on one hand, and between the government and the judiciary on the other. As the election year is approaching, both the PPP and the PML-N are upping the ante and resorting to point scoring. In fact, they have reinvented the politics of 1990s, not realising that the denouement of the act could be disastrous for both the parties and also for the nation at large.
PML-N head honcho, Mian Nawaz Sharif after the party meeting, which was convened to devise the strategy in the aftermath of last week's conviction of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani by the Supreme Court, urged him "to comply with the Supreme Court's order, quit the prime minister's office or face the movement. This is the final verdict of the PML-N and the gist of today's meeting."Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani retaliated and said he would not abide by the verdict of the Sharif courts'. The PPP's position was reflected in Federal Law Minister Farooq Naek's statement "that the only available option for the opposition is to bring vote of no confidence against the prime minister. Opposition has resorted to undue haste. PML-N must not lodge protest before the issuance of detailed judgment, as it can encourage anarchy."Battle lines have been drawn, but President Zardari being canny is likely to outsmart Mian Nawaz Sharif.
It is unfortunate that deceit and deception is hallmark of Pakistani politics, as political parties have been engaged in the politics of power and pelf, and failed to establish democratic traditions in society. It was in this backdrop that political analysts and commentators had presaged end of the coalition or alliance formed between the PPP and the PML-N after the February 2008 elections as soon as former president Musharraf would be off the scene. The era of pro-Bhutto and anti-politics had started in 1973, when the PPP made many friends by adopting pro-people and pro-labour policies, but at the same time had earned ire of the rightist parties, capitalists and business community because of his nationalization policy. Anyhow, the nation had to endure almost 10 years of Zia rule, and it was after General Zia's death in C-130 crash that elections were held. However, Islamic Jamhoori Ittehad was formed and anti-PPP forces were cobbled together to keep the PPP out of the power corridors before 1988 elections.
In 1996, PML-N had formed an alliance with other parties including Nawabzada Nasrullah's Pakistan Democratic Party, Jamaat-i-Islami, Tehrik-Istiqlal and myriad parties and launched Tehrik-e-Nijat to get Benazir's government sacked by the president. And he did succeed. Similarly, Pakistan People's Party and PDP had forged Grand Democratic Alliance with one-point agenda i.e. to get rid of Nawaz government. However his government was overthrown by the then COAS Pervez Musharraf when he was sacked on his way back from Sri Lanka. After February 2008 elections, the PPP and the PML-N had formed coalition government at the centre and the Punjab but due to the difference in modalities over reinstatement of judges the PML-N withdrew from the coalition from the centre. The problem is that shifting poles, changing positions and backing out of the promises and agreements are the norms of our politicians and political parties. And Asif Ali Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif are no exceptions.
At this point in time, when Pakistan has taken a position that supply line to NATO would be restored only after the new rules of engagement are finalised, need for national unity has never been felt as before. But our leaders are preoccupied with dreadful brinkmanship. Taking advantage of the disunity, America is not inclined to stop the drone attacks, and listen to any reason. Could there be such a clueless, directionless and inept leadership, even ignorant of how the public feels about it for its indifference to the threats to national security. The PML-N and a section of the media have also been trying to spike tension between the government and the judiciary. It is true that the PPP government has refused to obey the orders from the apex court to send the letter to Swiss authorities, but that matter should be sorted out by the government and the Supreme Court and the court does have options to get its orders enforced. PML-N leaders' statements siding with the judiciary tend to send the wrong signals, and interpreted as currying favour with judiciary to grind its axe.
Parliament, Judiciary and Executive - pillars of the state - are trying to assert power and each pillar of the state claims supremacy. The position is that Parliament says it is supreme. Judiciary considers itself as the most important pillar of the state. It does not say in many words, but implies that it could strike down any article of the constitution that contravenes the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. The apex court insists the government must write a letter to the Swiss authorities to bring it to the position before the former attorney general Malik Qayyum had written to the Swiss court that Pakistan was no more interested in the case. There is no denying that President Zardari has an image problem. And there are also cases of corruption against some of his party stalwarts and bureaucrats that have to be reopened after the NRO was declared by the apex court as void ab initio. However, there are cases against Sharif brothers pending in the courts that need to be taken up, as many analysts and panelists in the TV talk shows have started demanding. And the apex court should take up those cases to dispel the impression that it is only interested in indicting the PPP leaders.