Belated wisdom

Even though Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said recently that he does not need a vote of confidence, the opposition was still contemplating the option of moving a no confidence motion but finally understood that they did not have the requisite numbers for its success. This finally dawned on the opposition parties led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Friday. PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif met a number of leaders from other parties, including Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI’s) Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Pakistan People’s Party-Sherpao’s (PPP-S’s) Aftab Khan Sherpao, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, National Party leader Hasil Bizenjo, Jamaat-e-Ahle Hadith leader Sajid Mir and leaders of the PML-Q (like-minded). It is interesting that Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who was tasked by the PPP with bringing Mr Sharif and the opposition on board, was doing the exact opposite, i.e. contemplating a possible alliance of the opposition parties. This is consistent with the Maulana’s track record. But the good thing about this seemingly Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI)-like alliance is that all the parties are supporting democracy. In the precarious political situation that Pakistan finds itself in these days, this is a relief, reflecting how the belated wisdom that democracy is critical for the wellbeing and progress of the country has finally dawned on all stakeholders. An opposition alliance is usually formed with a one-point agenda: to get rid of the incumbent government. This time, though, there is a difference. It seems that Prime Minister Gilani’s remarks in the National Assembly have made the opposition realise that ousting a democratically elected government through unconstitutional means must be avoided at all costs.

The opposition has the right to form alliances. Recently, there was talk about the revival of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) but the JI was wary of the JUI-F’s closeness to the incumbent government. Now that a new opposition alliance is possibly in the offing, it seems that the plans to revive the MMA will not take off — which is a good thing since the MMA was made up of all the reactionary parties and helped propagate an extremist agenda for the country. It was a welcome change to see JI’s Qazi Hussain Ahmad ruling out another military takeover and terming the generals’ role in politics unacceptable. The JI has supported military dictators in the past, notably General Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf (although they eventually fell out with the latter). Therefore this latter day wisdom on the part of Qazi sahib is a positive sign. The ‘grand’ opposition alliance discussed five points and the most important of them was that early elections are the only solution to the current crisis. The government has already announced the schedule of the Senate elections for March 2 and if they take place on time without any obstacles, it is possible that the government would announce the date of an early general election soon after. An impartial and neutral caretaker setup would then have to be put in place, which is also the demand of the opposition parties. The Election Commission of Pakistan has already been asked by the Supreme Court to complete the revised voter lists by February 23, an uphill task but something the superior judiciary is adamant about.

Whether this grand opposition alliance is formed or not, only time will tell, but their support to democracy is something that this country badly needs. In our sad history, we have seen how opportunist sections of the political class have abandoned their democratic values at the drop of a hat. Finally the penny has dropped: democracy is the only way forward for Pakistan.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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