Mullah Military Alliance (Imran Khan, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, JUI, and ISI) are conspiring to bring the Bangladesh model of democracy in Pakistan – By Abbas Ather
Nawaz Sharif and Zardari and their supporters in PML-N and PPP must beware of conspiracies by anti-democracy forces.
Nawaz-Zardari meeting and future of politics
After a period of intense inter-party jousting, the two mainstream parties, the PPP and the PMLN, have come together again and made contact at the apex. On Saturday, President Asif Ali Zardari got Mr Nawaz Sharif over to dinner and discussed the political situation with him, vowing that he would move the country forward in collaboration with the PMLN. Mr Sharif repeated his undertaking that he would do nothing to destabilise the government and join hands with Mr Zardari in facing up to the problems of terrorism and economic crisis.
This is the first “summit” meeting since August when the PMLN got out of the coalition with the PPP. Three months of non-communication or communication through public statements has exacerbated the political environment. In politics, aggression is expressed through non-communication. We hope that, despite all the differences that crowd the pages of the newspapers, the two leaders will continue the practice of meeting each other. Indeed, it would do the country no harm if they met once a month, not to make compromises on their fundamental party positions, but simply to reaffirm that they would not act against each other’s legitimate interests.
People who believe that such meetings would be “unnatural” will point to “irreconcilable contradictions” between the two parties. In democracy, partisan politics is based on “alternation” in power. The party in power is opposed by the party in opposition because it stands as the “alternative” in the eyes of the people. Thus, at the people’s level, it is very important for the leaders to keep their differences highlighted so that their constituencies can remain distinct. The “PPP-PMLN coalition” that did not last was in some respects foredoomed because the partylines were threatened with dilution. The hawks then struck out and embarked on a campaign of aggressive criticism to re-establish obscured identities.
In the 1990s, the PPP and the PMLN were reputed to be “undemocratically” hostile to each other, not averse to using unparliamentary means to dethrone each other and victimise each other’s supporters through what passed for “accountability”. Both hurt themselves in the process and were in some ways responsible for the dilution of their power to rule and its transfer to a third element. But this was realised and then remedied in the Charter of Democracy of 2006 signed by both the parties. In a way the Charter describes the limits beyond which they will not take their traditional habits of political rivalry. Therefore the reference to the Charter in the Saturday dinner can only be welcomed.
The PMLN has backed an increasingly anti-PPP lawyers’ movement but has also showed restraint when the lawyers wanted to go over the precipice. It is upset that President Zardari should retain the 17th Amendment that excludes Mr Sharif from holding the post of prime minister. Mr Zardari’s response on Saturday was that the 17th Amendment could be removed or amended only with a two-thirds majority in parliament; and he will inevitably link it to another proposed amendment in respect of the judges’ appointment since it figures in the Charter as well. If this is an impasse because Mr Sharif insists on the revival of the judiciary under Mr Iftikhar Chaudhry, an overtly anti-PPP political step, it doesn’t mean that the two parties should go on the warpath.
Going at each other’s throat — apart from the fact that it will benefit neither party — will hurt the country. The PPP rules in three provinces and controls the country’s industrial hub in Karachi; the PMLN rules in Punjab which means it rules over 60 percent of the population of the country. The lines are firmly drawn and spheres of power clearly described. Additionally, the PMLN is popular in Punjab, as it were, across the board. So Mr Zardari can hope to survive as a leader if the PPP’s tenure in power is successful and Mr Sharif can extend his party’s increasingly provincial appeal to the national level if he tones down the hostile rhetoric of his party hawks.
What is clearly indicated here is mutual respect and collaboration on national issues. It is said that Mr Zardari’s trip to Saudi Arabia was not such a shining success because he had not taken Mr Sharif along. If this is true, and if it is also true that the Saudis actually asked Mr Zardari about Mr Sharif, then Mr Sharif should have been invited to go along. Mr Zardari’s efforts at communicating with the rival leadership are commendable; but equally commendable is the determination of Mr Sharif not to revert to the past patterns that brought so much misfortune to the people of Pakistan. (Daily Times)