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From the desk of Chief Editor

Dear Readers,
There is never a dull moment in Pakistan. To say we live in interesting times would be an understatement, the correct description would be, "we live in timeless agony". The economic situation and the terrorism problems would be big enough by themselves, what we tried to avoid by the Feb 18 elections is now upon us in spades, a political quagmire. We are in quicksand upto our necks! While one can understand that restoration of the superior judiciary was the main PML (N) demand, that the impeachment of the President would be given precedence was a real shock. This was purely personal. There is no doubt Asif Zardari has been pushed into this by Mian Nawaz Sharif. Given our dire economic straits and need to deal with the problems of the poverty-stricken common man, the priorities should have been different. Mian Nawaz Sharif seems to hate Musharraf far more than he loves Pakistan. Zardari chose the impeachment route as an easy escape, many analysts say that it was done to deliberate delay the judges issue and put it on the back-burner. Emulating Henry Wilson, Asif Zardari managed to twice sell the Eiffel Tower to the PML (N) President. The considered view by most analysts is that the Coalition does not have the votes necessary to impeach the President in a Joint Session of the National Assembly and the Senate. So if the impeachment does not take place, what happens to the cause of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and party? The lawyers have seen through this and that is why, led by Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, they are yelling their lungs out. However there is a silver lining in all this, hopefully in his defence the President will fire the opening salvo by repealing the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), at least put it for scrapping by judicial review before the Supreme Court. There is great public demand that the black law must be removed from the statute books and the convicted and the guilty face the course of justice. If the NRO disappears, a whole lot of people in govt who pull the strings of governance on Asif Zardari's behalf will be out on the streets and on the Exit Control List (ECL). This will necessarily test the loyalties of quite a number of Parliamentarians in the Coalition. The balance in numbers, already dicey, will then shift to the President. If the impeachment fails he is almost certain to use Article 58 2 (b) and remove the Federal Govt. However, if he does this, he will not last long, like Hector was followed by Achilles who killed him, the President will also have to go, sooner than later. For the benefit of readers, I am re-producing my recent article, "A REFINED PAKISTAN MODEL".
Five major power centers exist in Pakistan today, many smaller ones complicate the state of limbo we are in. On Mohtrama Benazir's death, her "will" was read out. With the party leadership in a state of shock, no one questioned the document, giving Asif Zardari space to stage-manage a stunning political coup. Nearly all of late Mohtrama's close aides who had rendered sacrifices within the country for over a decade were shunted aside, unelected or indirectly elected cronies were installed by Zardari diktat in the Party's Central Executive Committee. Democracy at its best? Unlike PPP, PPP (Z) are almost all beneficiaries of NRO, the blackest of black laws, with a short unambiguous agenda on behalf of their mentor, make money quickly and leave Pakistan, or whatever is left of it, economically and politically bankrupt.
The title and trappings of office make the PM, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani another power centre, most of his authority is nevertheless exercised by others. A good man with impeccable political credentials, he was preferred over Ahmad Mukhtar because the Federal Defence Minister would not be a rubberstamp. Put into government to serve as camouflage, one cannot club genuine and committed PPP party activists with PPP (Z).
The Presidency's powers have now diminished considerably. Many want Pervez Musharraf out of office and prosecuted on a number of counts, but he remains in contention. What about the groundswell of public opinion comparing him to the present lot and concluding he wasn't so bad after all? Musharraf would do well as a constitutional President if he does not interfere with governance.
The Sharif brothers political combine in the Punjab is another major force. The only national popular leader in the country today, Mian Nawaz Sharif's mass support unfortunately does not translate into many electoral seats in other Provinces. With capable and elected leaders (as opposed to those surrounding Zardari) to counsel him, the manic obsession about the superior judiciary in exclusion of the many serious problems confronting Pakistan causes reservations about Mian Sahib's judgment and priorities thereof. The PML (N) leader should shun confrontation, politics is the art of compromise.
The most potent power center is in a state of ambiguity. Engaged in a balancing act juggling options between disparate forces and issues, Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has managed to redeem the Army's image by withdrawing lock and stock (if not barrel as yet) from civilian life and ensuring free and fair elections. The no-win situation includes counselling the US that "hot pursuit" into FATA will further exacerbate anti-American feeling, while keeping passions in the ranks from reacting to bloody provocation. Pride notwithstanding, the Pakistan Armed Forces can hardly take on US military might. Having ensured "democracy", it is hypocrisy to salute the rather crooked lot in "constitutional" control of the country. When criminals function in the name of justice, justice becomes a crime. The perception of Kayani's constituency cannot be different from that of the common citizens of Pakistan. Commitment to democracy and the Constitution notwithstanding, can the Army gamble with missing the fail-safe line before the country dissolves wholesale into chaos?
Numerous challenges continue to pound the ramparts of the State, viz (1) domestic terrorism with international connotations and nuclear proliferation accusations compounded by AQ Khan's latest outburst puts us on collision course with the west (2) economic meltdown along with rising oil prices and continuous downward spike of the Rupee (3) an alarming food shortage causing inordinate price rises (4) manufacturing shutdowns force-multiplying unemployment (5) serious separatist challenges in Balochistan and (6) endemic insecurity among the masses because of rapidly eroding confidence in the political leadership. With the buying power of salaries rapidly croding and food prices inflated astronomically beyond reach of the common man, Dec 27-type apocalypse will come when a man sees his children go hungry. This is aggravated by our media testing the limits of both freedom and licence by giving primetime to terrorists spreading their bloody message, thus serving as the terrorists' most potent weapon.
Few options remain to stem the rot, the foremost being that the Coalition Government (or even the PPP content) should start functioning instead of indulging in rhetoric and posturing. Sincere long-term commitment requires Asif Zardari to contest elections and become PM. And/or let Yusuf Raza Gilani do his job and not be dictated to! As for the blatantly corrupt, NAB can give names for the Exit Control List (ECL) in less than one hour, their presence a God-given opportunity to question how they could afford their fabulous lifestyle abroad for a decade on their salary as bureaucrats. One real option must be reconciliation between the Presidency and PML (N), for democracy to function and counter challenges there is nothing better than a popular leader running governments.
Musharraf's counter-coup imposed martial law without calling it such. Lt Gen Moeen Ahmad of Bangladesh refined Musharraf's "1999 Pakistan model" into the "Bangladesh model" in early 2007 by not making the mistake of sending uniformed officers and men into civilian jobs. Unfortunately almost every military chief who takes over civilian power discovers his own immortality in governance as "the saviour of the nation" and his intentions become suspect. Disappointing for me personally, Moeen is no exception. With loss of credibility the "Bangladesh model" will fail its primary aim, to cleanse the body politic of the corrupt.
To quote my article of June 29, 1995, "Why do martial laws fail?", "Martial Laws fail because the initiators of all extra-Constitutional rule ride into town on tanks with the lofty Aim of saving the country, relying on that platonic national purpose to make themselves credible. They soon adjust the Aim to more material (and less patriotic) reasons of self-perpetuation. The original Aim remains publicly the same, becomes an exercise in self-delusion. This diversion of Aim means that one individual or group is simply replaced by another (or others), instead of being a transition mechanism that provides for and facilitates the process of the democratic system being repaired and renovated to reflect the real genius and aspirations of the people", unquote.
In both models, the Army went wrong, viz (1) not including clean and above board electable representatives from major parties in the Caretaker set-up and (2) its Chief putting personal ambition over national interest. The ultimate option staring us in the face is the route of last resort, a refined "Pakistan model" with both positive and negative lessons learnt from the 1999 Pakistan and 2007 Bangladesh military interventions. Uniformed personal must stay out of government, supporting the honest and capable in running the affairs. Uniformed persona must also shun a second life in politics and/or government. With a swift return to democratic rule (with continuing and fair accountability to include the judiciary and the military), Pakistan has hope.
The country is not yet in a state of anarchy, the Federal government is. As time goes by, in a rapidly deteriorating situation, damage control and recovery thereof of stable governance will be much harder. One can only pick up the pieces if there are any pieces left to pick.
While we are not a failed State, if we act too late, options or not, we are doomed as a State.

M. Ikram Sehgal

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