Dec 15

Greater tragedy

Posted on Friday, December 15, 2017 in The Friday Times (Editorial)

Greater tragedy

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Ayaz Sadiq, says he has never been more disheartened than now by the “unnatural” and “uncertain” situation in the country in which a “greater plan” is unfolding to boot out the elected government before it completes its tenure. He fears that the political parties will not be able to pass timely legislation to ensure the legitimacy of the next elections, thereby creating a vacuum in which an unelected caretaker government could step in to preside over Pakistan’s fate for an extended period. The process could kick-off by a powerful all-parties dharna led by Dr Tahir ul Qadri next month that would trigger mass resignations of PMLN members and allies from parliament. A constitutional crisis would ensue in which the provincial governments would also flounder in a sea of uncertainty, compelling the Supreme Court to step in (as Chief Justice Saqib Nisar said recently) to “plug the gap”.

Mr Sadiq’s utterances are, however, no less significant than those of General Qamar Bajwa, the Army Chief. He recently stressed that it is not the job of the army to run the government. He says he believes in democracy and all state institutions should work in their respective sphere of responsibility. But his statement was preceded by that of the Air Chief, Sohail Aman, who said that “democracy was not a solution” to every country’s problems.

As if such contradictory statements are not sufficient to confound the confusion, the army chief says he is all for the proposed merger of FATA with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. But the PMLN government has been dragging its feet because of the opposition of Maulana Fazlur Rahman, a key parliamentary ally, and Mehmood Khan Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party. Maulana Fazal has now resurrected the Muttahida Majlis Amal or MMA, an alliance of five religious parties, to muddy Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s electoral waters. More ominously, he is all set to ditch the PMLN.

Meanwhile, Mr Asif Zardari is all over the place. He says his party is opposed to any change in the schedule of the general elections that leads to the creation of a prolonged caretaker set-up. But he is not cooperating with the PMLN on the issue of the Delimitation Bill pending in the Senate, without which the Election Commission of Pakistan cannot start preparing for elections. He is also hobnobbing with a coterie of pro-Miltablishment, anti-democracy, stalwarts led by Dr Tahir ul Qadri who are planning yet another long march to prematurely kick out the PMLN government, a sure shot recipe for some murky political engineering via a caretaker government. It may be recalled that this very group of non-electable politicians led exactly such a long march against Mr Zardari’s PPP government in 2012, only this time Mr Nawaz Sharif is the target.

The regional situation is also heating up for Pakistan. There is a new wave of terrorist attacks in the border provinces of Balochistan and KP. These originate from terrorist havens in Afghanistan backed by the hostile Intel agencies of Kabul and New Delhi. Pakistan is also at precipitous odds with the United States. A recent visit by the US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis to Islamabad yielded more problems than solutions. Each side wants the other to “do more” to assuage their concerns regarding safe terrorist havens in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The US is threatening drone strikes in the settled areas of Pakistan. The Pakistan Air Chief has responded by warning that the Pakistan Air Force will shoot down any US drones over Pakistani skies. Finally, on the eastern border, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is beating anti-Pakistan drums to whip up pro-BJP support against the Congress. Beyond the region, global Muslim opinion is aflame with anti-US passion against a decision by US President Donald Trump to make Jerusalem the capital of Israel. This could provoke a militant backlash in Pakistan – there is talk of a march on the US Embassy – that could further destabilize the PMLN government.

These political rumblings are naturally taking a toll of the economy. Instead of rising remittances beefing up forex reserves and strengthening the Pak Rupee, the opposite is happening. Remittances and Exports are falling and capital outflows are increasing. In consequence, the Rupee is devaluing steadily (it is up 110 plus in the open market) and threatening to fuel inflation, which can ignite popular wrath at any time.

The tragedy is not so much that the elected government of the day is besieged and dysfunctional. It is the general state of the nation that is in unprecedented disarray and disunity. The Muhajirs are fighting among themselves and fighting the PPP government. The PPP government is fighting the PMLN and PTI. The PTI is fighting both plus the JUI. The mullahs are fighting among themselves and everyone else who is not a mullah. State institutions are conflicted. And Pakistan is at loggerheads with India, Afghanistan and the US.

The greater tragedy would be if Mr Ayaz Sadiq is proven right.

Comments are closed for this entry.