Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan People’s Party’

The forgotten millions

August 31, 2008

As Pakistan’s political leaders wrangle over the small print, the welfare of the country’s people has dropped off the agenda

Last November, I lost a long-standing bet with a friend when General Pervez Musharraf finally relinquished his military role and then embarked on a new term as Pakistan’s civilian president. Up to that point, the idea that he might give up his army uniform had always seemed ludicrous – thus leading me to enter into the bet so confidently.

The end of Benazir Bhutto’s self-imposed exile from Pakistan last October was the turning point in the country’s political rat race. The response by thousands of PPP supporters to her arrival was enough to drive Musharraf to impose a state of emergency.

August 18 this year, however, saw the end of Musharraf’s regime. His haphazard constitutional changes, some of which include the suspension of the judiciary (which is still in turmoil today) and other actions such as the military operation against Red Mosque fundamentalists and the curtailing of high-profile media channels, ended up backfiring.

The ineffectual methods used to quell the uproar after Bhutto’s assassination last December, when the authorities failed to solve the case, contributed to a further fall from grace in the public eye. Towards the end of his regime, the discontent reached its height, turning into an almost unanimous anti-Musharraf campaign in the national media, and exacerbating the civil war raging in the tribal areas.

What of Pakistan’s future now? Since Asif Zardari, Bhutto’s husband and co-chairperson of the Pakistan People’s party (PPP), currently the largest party, has nominated himself for the presidential seat, a new debate has been sparked, with the opposition in uproar. Last Monday, Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Nawaz Sharif parted ways with the PPP, leading to the collapse of the five-month-old coalition government, on the grounds that Zardari had not kept his word regarding the restoration of the judiciary or democracy. An agreement signed on August 7 by the two leaders was also exposed to the public. It clearly stated the executive restoration of the judges would occur one day after the impeachment or resignation of President Musharraf. Zardari, however, employed every delaying tactic at hand to prevent this policy from going through. The accord also stated that once Musharraf was out of the picture, both leaders would put forward nonpartisan candidates for presidency. Asif Zardari went ahead and declared himself a candidate for president without informing or consulting Nawaz Sharif, and announced that the elections would take place on September 6.

The current stalemate between the former allies and the fractured coalition seem to loom larger in politics than the survival of Pakistanis who are unable to cope with massive food and fuel inflation. While the judges and the constitutional bills are lofty policy matters of grave significance, the politicians in the country seem to have lost sight of what image they are portraying both at home and abroad.

With nuclear neighbour India already licking its chops and the US circling, eager to launch an inevitable counter-terrorism campaign in Pakistan, it appears that the country stands closer to decline than ever before, democracy or no democracy. But there are those who dare to hope yet. Hope, even, that there might be a reformation on the horizon, or that after the resolution of conflicts, the country will return to the path of peaceful development. Hope that no foreign conflict lies ahead, and that the dire energy crisis will be resolved within the five to six-year timeline given, or even that there will not still be forces at loggerheads on policy technicalities, skirting the issue of the welfare of the nation. I, for one, am not willing to wager very much on that these hopes will be realised. Are you?

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Pakistan in Uncertain Times

August 27, 2008

The Military Waits in the Wings

By DEEPAK TRAPATHI | Counterpunch, August 23/24, 2008

Old enemies seldom make easy bedfellows. This is what we see in Pakistan today. Now that President Pervez Musharraf, once the military strongman, has been forced out, the shaky alliance of the two most powerful civilian politicians, Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, is unraveling. The euphoria over the defeat of Musharraf’s party in the February parliamentary elections has evaporated. The aim which had brought Zardari and Sharif together has been achieved. And their old hostilities are, once again, coming to the fore.

I have been an observer of Pakistan’s troubled and unhappy journey for over thirty years. And I must say that the sudden outbreak of hope after the victory for the democratic forces last February had not been seen for a long time in the country. The election result had clear messages from the electorate to those it sees as controlling the destiny of Pakistan. First, to the military, which has ruled the country for more than half of the period since independence in 1947; and which, under General Musharraf, subverted the judiciary above all. Second, to America, whose role in shaping Pakistan’s policies is seen by the electorate as unacceptable interference, exercised through the Bush administration’s proxy, Musharraf.

With Musharraf gone, Washington’s plans in the region are in disarray. Bush, in his final few months in the White House, seems to have decided to deal with Pakistan’s military chief, General Ashfaq Kiyani, on matters of collaboration in the ‘war on terror’. After ruling Pakistan from the front for almost a decade, the military has had enough and retreated into the background. However, it continues to be the real center of power behind the cover of a civilian government that survives from day to day.

Earlier, I referred to Zardari and Sharif being old adversaries. So I should give a brief explanation of what lies at the root of their antagonism and distrust. They belong to very different political clans. Sharif was a protégé of the military dictator, General Zia-ul Haq. Under his martial law administration, the Sharif family enjoyed a dramatic rise in its business and political fortunes. Zardari belongs to the Bhutto clan by marriage to Benazir, who was assassinated in December 2007. Sharif is from Punjab, the most populous and wealthy province, which dominates the military hierarchy of Pakistan; Zardari from Sindh, a province with about half the population of Punjab.

In the 1980s, Nawaz Sharif’s political fortunes rose dramatically, starting with his appointment as chief minister of Punjab with the blessings of General Zia. Sharif’s rise continued after Zia’s death in a plane crash in 1988 and, two years later, he rose to be the prime minister of Pakistan. Zia, during his military rule, deposed and then executed the head of the Bhutto clan, Zulfiqar Ali, the elected prime minister of the country. Before Sharif and General Musharraf fell out with each other and Sharif’s government was deposed in a coup in 1999, it was Sharif who was close to the military establishment. The Bhutto clan was the outcast and Benazir and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, spent years in jail.

Memories of his overthrow, and subsequent exile to Saudi Arabia, by Musharraf have made Nawaz Sharif distrustful of the army. Zardari, acknowledging the army’s paramount role in the country’s politics, and encouraged by America, would like to work with it. The two are far more mature, suave and no longer as impetuous as they were in their youth. But that the political fortunes of one were made at the cost of the other remains a fact of history and difficult to forget.

Against that difficult-to-forget episode of history is the new reality of Pakistan today. The People’s Party led by the Bhutto clan, Benazir’s widower and their teenage son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is the larger party in Parliament and its character is truly national. The main stronghold of the Muslim League faction of Nawaz Sharif is essentially Punjab, the most important province, but not the whole country. It matters at a time when rival forces are pulling the country apart. Some represent Islamic fundamentalism, others secularism; some support a strong center while others demand greater provincial autonomy. Pakistan is more volatile today than at the time of its breakup in 1971, when East Pakistan seceded to become Bangladesh.

As Zardari and Sharif maneuver to consolidate their positions after years in the wilderness, Pakistan struggles with the insurgency that grows day by day and the economic crisis worsen. New questions arise. As Zardari embarks on his quest to become the next president of Pakistan, will he turn the post into that of a constitutional figurehead? Or insist on keeping the powers to dismiss the government, dissolve the parliament and meddle with the judiciary? Will the next president side with the all powerful military and cooperate with the United States in the ‘war on terror’ that caused the downfall of Musharraf? Or work to reduce the role of the army in the running of the country? Will the judges who were dismissed by Musharraf by illegal means be reinstated? Or is the integrity of the judiciaryto remain in tatters? Above all, will the hopes, which the people of Pakistan pinned on the elected politicians, be realized? Or they will, once again, be disappointed. As these and other questions linger, the military will be waiting in the wings.

Deepak Tripathi, a former BBC journalist, is an author and a researcher, with reference to South and West Asia, terrorism and the US. His website is http://deepaktripathi.wordpress.com and he can be reached at DandATripathi@gmail.com.

‘Mr 10 Per Cent’ puts jail behind him and bids to lead Pakistan

August 25, 2008

Asif Ali Zardari, the widowed husband of Benazir Bhutto, is set to take over from the man he forced to resign from office.

By Omar Waraich in Islamabad and Andrew Buncombe | The Independent, Sunday, 24 August 2008

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Less than a year ago Asif Ali Zardari appeared to be yesterday’s man. Seemingly sidelined by his wife, Benazir Bhutto, and her party, facing a series of corruption charges and bearing the nickname “Mr 10 Per Cent”, it appeared that his days of power and influence were over.

Now he is back, as never before. Having been catapulted to the forefront of Pakistan’s political maelstrom by the assassination of his wife, Mr Zardari is poised to become his country’s head of state. At the end of a remarkable week which saw Pervez Musharraf (inset) resign as president to avoid impeachment, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) announced that its chosen candidate to replace him would be Mr Zardari.

The man who spent 11 years in jail over corruption charges he claims were politically motivated, yesterday confirmed he would take the post. It would have been remarkable if the party he has led since his wife’s death last December had not agreed to nominate him. Yesterday PPP officials were meeting with coalition partner Nawaz Sharif to try to secure his backing for the nomination. “We want a joint candidate for the race,” said PPP spokesman Jameel Soomro.

Continued . . .

Pakistan coalition faces collapse

August 24, 2008
Al Jazeera, August 24. 2008

Zardari, right, has confirmed that he will stand for Pakistan’s presidency [AFP]

Pakistan’s coalition government is looking increasingly shaky after an aide to Nawaz Sharif, leader of one party in the goverment, said his PML-N party was inclined to pull out.

Pervez Rasheed, a close aide of the former prime minister, said that the party’s leaders would meet on Monday to decide whether to join the opposition amid growing differences with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

“General opinion in the party is in favour of parting ways,” Rasheed told The Associated Press news agency on Sunday.

Sharif has demanded that the PPP agree to reinstate the 60 judges sacked by Pervez Musharraf, the former president who quit last week, by Monday in order to remain united for presidential elections to be held on September 6.

But the PPP under Asif Ali Zardari – who confirmed on Saturday that he would bid to replace Musharraf – has been stalling on the issue.

Sharif demands

Sharif has been asked to support Zardari’s nomination but has made this conditional on the return of the judges and the PPP leader agreeing to limit the powers of the presidency.

He says that Zardari has reneged on a written agreement to restore the judges within 24 hours of Musharraf’s decision on August 18 to quit rather than face impeachment charges.

Siddiqul Farooq, a spokesman for the PML-N said that the issue of whether Zardari would stand for the presidency was the PPP’s “own decision,” not that of the coalition partners, but reiterated his leader’s demands.

“We do not want a civilian president with the same powers that Musharraf had, mainly the power to dissolve parliament,” Farooq said.

“Our top priority is restoration of the judges and we want it done on Monday.”

Analysts say the PPP is reluctant to restore the judges because of concerns the deposed chief justice might take up challenges to an amnesty from corruption charges last year granted to Zardari and other party leaders.

Presidential contest

In a sign that relations between the two sides were becoming increasing fractured, another of Shraif’s aides on Saturday offered to stand for the presidency in opposition of Zardari.

“I am also willing to contest the presidential election, but I am bound to obey what the party decides,” Javed Hashmi, one of Sharif’s most senior aides, said.

Kanwar Dilshad, the election commission secretary, said nomination papers for the presidency can be filed from August 26, with the final date for any withdrawals on August 30.

Under Pakistan’s constitution, a president is elected by members of the country’s four provincial assemblies and the national parliament within 30 days of the post becoming vacant.

The political deadlock is making it increasing difficult for the government to tackle economic problems in the country, unrest in the tribal areas and the growing strength of armed pro-Taliban groups.

‘Mr 10 percent’ nominated as next president of Pakistan!

August 23, 2008

Pak Tribune, August 22, 2008

ISLAMABAD: The Central Executive Committee of Pakistan People’s Party has nominated the PPP Co-chairman, Asif Ali Zardari for the post of president of Pakistan.

This was stated by Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Sherry Rehman while talking to newsmen after the Pakistan People’s Party CEC meeting here on Friday.

She said the CEC meeting did not discuss anything on the minus-1 formula and added that a three-member committee has been set up for restoration of the deposed judges. Sherry Rehman, Raza Rabbani and Farooq H. Naek will represent PPP in the committee.

Meanwhile, Asif Ali Zardari has sought 24 hours from the party to make a final decision.

Read also Newsweek: Zardari on the Hot Seat


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