A bed of nails

The PPP-led coalition government is in trouble, again. Not only did MQM leave the federal cabinet, it also issued a stern warning to the PPP. “If the government does not change its attitude for the better, then we will sit on the opposition benches,” said MQM chief Altaf Hussain. President Asif Zardari took matters into his own hand by ordering Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah to address the MQM’s reservations. Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza has even offered to step down if it would help save democracy. Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira said that “one should not waste time when there are problems among friends. We [the PPP] are in contact with MQM and things will return to normal pretty soon.” Whatever the PPP leaders say, our political landscape is becoming more troubled with each passing day.

Coalition politics all over the world, but more so in Pakistan, is a bed of nails. On the one hand the PPP is trying to mend fences with the MQM and on the other it is trying to pacify the JUI-F. Maulana Fazlur Rehman is now demanding Prime Minister Gilani’s resignation and has asked the PPP to appoint a new prime minister. “He [Gilani] has sabotaged the process of reconciliation among coalition partners and his actions have caused political instability in the country. The government is under pressure and the president will have to take this step,” said Fazl. The PPP has been pushed against the wall by the JUI-F’s departure from the coalition and in its wake the MQM’s departure from the federal cabinet without going into the opposition. Alarm bells are definitely ringing within the PPP quarters now. The real question on everyone’s mind right now is, what will the PPP have to sacrifice to regain its (past and present) coalition partners? The hot news doing the rounds in Islamabad is that there might actually be an in-house change and the PPP might concede by changing the prime minister. The government must really be in hot water if it comes down to making human sacrifices (metaphorically speaking). Before taking any critical decision, the PPP must weigh its pros and cons as it is entering its third year in power. Whatever decisions the PPP takes will determine the shape of things to come but only time will tell whether the PPP will get over the difficulties it is facing right now or not.

On another note, the verbal sparring between the PML-N and the MQM has hit a new low. It all started with Mian Nawaz Sharif’s remarks against the MQM and its chief Altaf Hussain. Mr Sharif accused the MQM of supporting military dictatorships. Mr Hussain called Mr Sharif “a by-product of dictatorship” and challenged him to a debate. It was a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. But as if this was not enough, yesterday PML-N’s Chaudhry Nisar launched a personal attack on the MQM chief. In response, MQM’s Haider Abbas Rizvi and Waseem Akhtar lashed out at the Sharif brothers, their families and Chaudhry Nisar. Our politicians must realise that talking about someone’s personal life, especially about the womenfolk of their families, is totally uncalled for and not within the realm of decency. Criticism should be limited to each other’s political work only. This entire episode gives a new meaning to ‘dirty politics’. The kind of language used was not just disgusting but downright offensive. If this is the kind of discourse our politicians are going to indulge in to settle scores, then the country’s political future surely looks bleak.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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