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January 17, 2012

The deadly political impasse: Who stands where


January 17, 2012

Today Pakistan faces a deadly political impasse with grave ramifications. The players include the government, opposition, judiciary, the armed forces, media, the masses and finally the foreign hand. To understand the nature of imbroglio and solution thereof, we need to be clear where each stakeholder stands today, what it is striving for and what must be done to sail through.
Starting with the PPP-led coalition government, which includes PPP, ANP, PML-Q and MQM; the PPP, though enjoys strong support from the US because of the services rendered, has failed on the domestic front in every sphere of governance, involvement in corruption, destroying institutions, perpetual defiance to judiciary, stand-off with the army, a recent development, and bringing the country to the brink of economic disaster, and, as such, has nothing to go to the masses and now vying to become political martyrs for gaining sympathy vote. And since martyrdom is not in sight, their frustration is growing with each passing day.
Their only option is to take advantage of the little time they are left with, coupled with the short memory of the masses, and at least try to give a semblance of governance, besides curbing the tendency to deal politically the judicial matters confronted by the leadership. The ANP, if ‘Railways’ is any gauge of their performance, has no option but to go along with PPP. The PML-Q, in either case is facing extinction, and as such, should merge with either PPP or PML-N, using its well-known art of ‘dealings’.
In my reckoning they would be better of aligning with their parent party, if nothing else, for this country’s sake. The MQM, however, faces a dilemma — the day PPP is strong enough, MQM will be the likely target and, I am sure, their leadership knows it. As such, their survival is to stand on high moral grounds and must de-link themselves from the government’s misdeeds.
The second stakeholder is the opposition; which is symbolised

by Nawaz Sharif who, besides being a man of known intelligence, is suffering from a kind of ‘military takeover phobia’. These weaknesses have been successfully exploited by President Zardari and he, till recently, played the role of a friendly opposition. Still undecided, the opposition needs to get its act together. It’s now or never situation and time for redemption. En masse resignations from the assemblies may save the day for them and for the country.
The third stakeholder, judiciary; though it has given some landmark decisions, yet the apex court is gradually losing moral ascendancy and faith in the ‘revamped’ judiciary is dwindling because of, firstly, its inability to rein in those bent upon maligning its image and, secondly, inability to get its decisions implemented on some important cases, for fear of political fallout. Even the six options given in the NRO implementation case are a manifestation of expediency, as the infamous ‘law of necessity’. They have little time left to assert.
The armed forces: this institution, till a few years back, could be ascribed as the centre of gravity of this country - the status undergoing dilution with each passing day. The nation at large, which has invested and continues to invest in the armed forces, has great expectations from this institution. As such, despite successful operations in Swat and South Waziristan, the masses were jolted by the intelligence, operational and security related failures as manifested in terrorist attacks on GHQ, Parade Lane, Mehran Base and, most significant, the May 2 incident, having serious ramifications for the country.
Besides, as the ensuing developments indicate, the strategy supposedly being followed by the military vis-à-vis US has backfired and the armed forces have failed (at least in perception) in what the media calls ‘performance audit’. Sensing an opportunity, the ruling elite, with support of US against some commitments, is trying to undermine the army as an institution and, thus, a standoff.
The military leadership must continue to display restraint against ongoing provocations, perform on ground to thwart threats to Pakistan’s security, their primary responsibility, and concentrate on their professional pursuits - their only option to emerge victorious from the impasse.
The fifth stakeholder, the media: Till recently, the media played a very constructive role in highlighting the shortfalls in governance and institutional failures and acted as an independent and impartial monitoring body.
However, the power it has started to generate for affecting changes, has also made it vulnerable to ‘enticements and coercion’, resulting into affiliations and lack of objectivity, though still not very pronounced. To those who have certain ‘motivation’ for taking sides, I would only request that they must shun pursuit of personal gains and play an impartial role as the stakes are too high - on media the future course of this country depends.
Sixth stakeholder, the masses; though in democracies, the people are masters of their destiny, in Pakistan, they have abdicated this privilege by remaining indifferent, and, as such, do not matter in the scheme of things. They must begin to assert and strive to break the shackles of subservience, or they would remain condemned to oblivion, as hither to.
Finally, the foreign hand, US; for achievement of their long-term objectives in the region, it is imperative that Pakistan must be ruled by a pliant leadership which must remain subservient to their demands.
Contrary to previous practice of relying on military dictators, this time, they are betting on the civilian political leadership for the purpose and would go all-out to protect the interests of their ‘assets’.
However, since their strategy vis-à-vis Pakistan hinges on a ‘sold out’ leadership, it would mean more extremism and would ultimately be counter-productive. They must play a positive role in strengthening democracy to ensure a stable Pakistan, which is in everybody’s interest.
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