Colours of the wind

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani displayed his displeasure on Tuesday at the talk of mid-term polls by the PML-N legislators. Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan made a statement on Monday that apparently rattled the prime minister. “Mid-term election is an option. Whenever there is talk about this, hue and cry is started in power corridors…Voices are coming from streets that we be saved from the present rulers and I hear these voices,” said the opposition leader. It was in response to this that the prime minister made it clear that no mid-term polls are in the offing since only he has the constitutional power to dissolve the assemblies and call for mid-term elections after the passage of the 18th Amendment. A rather aggressive Mr Gilani assured parliament that he will “not dissolve the assembly” and those asking for a change were “not sincere to the country”. He also dismissed the option of a military intervention saying that the “military is ours. It is Pakistan’s. It will never impose martial law”. Mr Gilani’s outburst is indicative of how much pressure he is facing these days due to his government’s non-performance and allegations of corruption. He has apparently been stung by the idea of mid-term polls or a military intervention.

As far as mid-term polls go, Mr Gilani is right that they cannot take place without his approval, but as Chaudhry Nisar ‘reminded’ him, there is another option available – that of an in-house change. For the last many months we have seen all kinds of conspiracy theories swirling around about a change of government. Whether or not it will materialise is another matter altogether. The opposition keeps asking for a change but it has never come up with any solutions to the problems we face today. It is easy to criticise and point fingers at the incumbents but if the PML-N or other opposition parties cannot come up with new ideas to help the country, they had better wait for the 2013 general elections. Those undemocratic forces waiting for an intervention from the ‘boots’ are also in for a disappointment. There are a lot of factors militating against a military intervention, at least for the foreseeable future. The international community, especially the US, would not support a military dictatorship at this point in time. Pakistan would have a hard time coping with the situation if international aid is cut off. Apart from this, the army is too busy combating the terrorists right now to think of embarking on yet another misadventure.

On another note, Mian Nawaz Sharif’s Meesaq-e-Pakistan (Charter of Pakistan) is a good proposition and should be discussed by all political parties, as the prime minister too has suggested. Mian sahib has suggested formulating a 25-year plan for the country. If we keep lurching from crisis to crisis in a reactive manner, we are unlikely to get out of the mess we are in. The only way to go about it is through proper long-term planning. There are some sections of opinion that are sceptical of Mr Sharif’s sincerity and are questioning whether this charter is in fact a plan to subvert the PPP-led coalition government. On the face of it, this does not seem to be the case. Mian sahib is indeed making a lot of sense and maybe his bitter experience in the past has led to this change in him. By asking for economic reforms, strengthening democracy, setting civil-military relations on the right path, good relations with neighbours, etc, Nawaz Sharif has given an idea that is worth taking up. The government and the opposition should sit together and come up with long-term strategies for the good of the country.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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