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Registration date : 2008-03-02

PostSubject: POST ELECTIONS SCENARIO IN PAKISTAN   Tue Mar 11, 2008 6:32 am

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Musharraf Safe, Zardari In A Fix, Nawaz Playing Dirty

Published : March 10, 2008 | Author : Humayun Gauhar
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Musharraf Safe, Zardari In A Fix, Nawaz Playing Dirty

Everyone is politicking – small men squabbling over small slices of a very small cake. No one is thinking of Pakistan. In fact, the country is not even on their radar screens. I asked the question Dawn on Sunset? in an article of that name after the elections. I've got my answer now. "When small men begin to cast long shadows, it is a sure sign that the sun is setting."


Monday, 10 March 2008.


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—It's a Catch-22 galore for Asif, the sudden great leader Z. If AZ partners with N and forms a government called ANZ, he is in danger of losing America. If he goes with Q (which America wants him to) he is in danger of losing popular support, because Q are the very people they voted to get out, not for him to bring them back in.

Likewise, Q will balk at joining its sworn enemy for fear of damaging its own support base. There's another Catch-22. If Zardari keeps Nawaz out – or N decides to stay out – he will grow to juggernaut proportions as the government inevitably fails to deliver.

Come the next elections and it will be Nawaz-Nawaz all the way with no hiding place for those he hates. And if Z goes with N to prevent him from outgrowing everyone else, he will make his party's sponsors, promoters and puppeteers very unhappy.

How can he forget that it was America that picked up his party from a political cul de sac and forced its leader back on Pakistan. So if Z loses America's goodwill he loses everything, especially since his party woefully failed to demonstrate that it is even capable of winning a simple majority despite inordinate American help, the sympathy vote following Benazir's assassination and all the pre-poll rigging in his favor by the statements of senior U.S. officials, Negroponte's efforts, Congress folk, the bias and misreading of the U.S. (and western) media and the prejudiced (more likely deliberately pre-determined) 'findings' of American pollsters, all often working in tandem.

There's yet another Catch-22. Some political wiseacres say that when it comes to the crunch, Zardari is more likely to ditch the president and go with Nawaz. But then again he makes America unhappy and the president as well, who is the other person sitting pretty. He knows that his opponents don't have the votes to oust him; he knows that America still prefers him; and he knows that the army is fully behind him. Let the cats fight over the milk while he stands by and plays honest broker when needed. Poor Z! Forget Catch-22: talk about being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Any surprise then that three weeks after the elections and we still don't know who our new prime minister will be or which parties will form our next coalition government.

Some system this, but such a badly divided vote in which no party comes anywhere near a simple majority is not unknown in the stupid parliamentary system. Nor is it unknown for a party to get more votes than those winning more seats in this 'first past the post' nonsense.

The people may have 'spoken', albeit a minority of them, and their mandate may be badly split, but to me it is perfectly clear. By everyone voting for their own (except to an extent the Punjab), each province and ethnic group has said that they want to run their own affairs with as little interference from the centre as possible.

A mandate is like a brief a client gives to a lawyer. In this case there are five big clients with five different briefs which they have given to six different lawyers.

The Sindhis' brief is with Z; Muhajirs' with Altaf Hussain; Punjabis' with both N and Q; the Pathans' with Asfandyar Wali. Only the Baloch didn't have the choice of their own lawyer since he had stupidly gone on strike but they still chose their own kind even though they are practicing in Q's chambers.

It's the type of vote and mandate division one would find in a confederation, not a federation. The second thing that is clear is that with more seats than any other, Z's party will lead the next coalition. But he is so short of a majority that if he doesn't take N along, he will have to go with Q and allies.

Nawaz Sharif is actually playing a very clever game. He knows that if he remains out of the executive but only votes with the ruling coalition, he has got it made, for none of the odium of the inevitable fallout from the coming failures will stick to him and the next time round, which should be before term, he stands a very good chance of winning a majority on his own.

And if Z and Q are forced by U.S. pressure to form the government in Islamabad and Lahore and leave N totally out in the cold, all the better for him, for then he stands a good chance of winning a two-thirds majority which will enable him to change the constitution, impeach the president and become a civilian dictator, as he tried the last time and missed by a whisker.

Or, as I wrote last week, N could pull the rug out from under Z's feet by attracting a little more than 30 MPs from Q and the independents to build a lead in this Assembly. He could then become kingmaker or, if he can change the law, king himself.

Thus I suggested that both Z and the president should watch it. I should have added that the know-all Uncle Sam should watch it too, since he regards N as Ahmedinijad II, but with the bomb, so more dangerous. To alienate America further – unwittingly I'm sure – N has also threatened to make Dr. A. Q. Khan president. And his admiration for the Taliban is well-known. All this betrays his mindset, which America isn't enamoured with, to put it mildly. What will they do with Ahmedinijad II in power wielding a two-thirds majority, wielding the bomb and AQ as president? Suddenly, why do I fear for Nawaz's life?

Any wonder that Z cannot make up his mind about who will be the next prime minister?

If he opts for a Punjabi, he could rile N irreparably. There has always been a near-total trust deficit between them, recent appearances for convenience's sake notwithstanding. And if Z has decided to become prime minister himself by getting parliament to do away the graduation clause in order to qualify to contest a bye-election for the National Assembly, he needs someone whom he can trust, one who is not likely to dither at the prospect of leaving the prime minister's pomp and panoply. He may find the new prime minister not even returning his calls after some time, especially if he becomes America's and the army's pet, which he will definitely have to. That's another Catch-22.

There's yet another – from Amin Fahim's demeanour its pretty clear that if he isn't made prime minister, he will chart his own course, which will fracture a party being led by a person on sufferance. Keeping it together with only a token Bhutto as head and a Zardari as de facto leader will be quite a feat anyway, without Fahim going his own way.

One serious, and as time passes seemingly unsolvable, problem with a Zardari-Nawaz coalition is that the latter is single-mindedly out for revenge against the president, to the exclusion of everything else. He insists that the sacked judges (who took oath under Musharraf's first PCO) be restored, hoping (or knowing) that they will pick up from where they left off and declare Musharraf's presidency illegal, since he cannot impeach him. N forgets (or is he being too clever by half?) that this might not suit Z, because after getting the president the judges will also get him by throwing out the NRO under which Z is being cleared of all cases. N also forgets that in the Charter of Democracy he signed with Benazir, they both promised never to have anything to do with any judges who have ever taken oath under any PCO.

So what do Musharraf haters do if they cannot get him constitutionally? They fall back on 'propriety' – that since the vote against Musharraf was 'overwhelming', he should do the 'decent' thing and resign. Forget that the majority didn't even bother to vote, there was nothing overwhelming about it – his allies got more than N and a little less than Z. If these people are democrats and believe in the constitution, then they can't demand that the president resigns because they cannot impeach him. If they manage it, fine, I have no problem with that. It’s part of the constitutional process. But they cannot have double standards – use the propriety argument against the president and the constitutional argument for the politicians and judges. If propriety it be, then it is far more proper for all those who have plundered the nation to resign from politics first and promise never to seek public office again and then ask the president to also do the 'proper' thing. But they cannot have one yardstick for those they support and another for those they oppose. If they go by the facetious argument that no cases were proved against the politicians (it matters little why) then one can also say that whatever the president has done is lawful since it has been sanctified repeatedly by parliament and the Supreme Court (it matters little how). His opponents should stop whining and get on with the more serious business of forming a workable government that will last for five years. And they should concentrate on the agenda they have and focus on the near-impossible election promises they have made.

Everyone is politicking – small men squabbling over small slices of a very small cake. No one is thinking of Pakistan. In fact, the country is not even on their radar screens. I asked the question Dawn on Sunset? in an article of that name after the elections. I've got my answer now. "When small men begin to cast long shadows, it is a sure sign that the sun is setting."

This column first appeared in Pakistan’s The Nation. Mr. Gauhar is a Pakistani columnist based in Islamabad. He can be reached at

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All comments are in descending order, latest on top.
Brilliant and credible analyses of a messy situation. I am happily led to believe that President Musharraf will remain to serve and build Pakistan. The horrendous problems looming on the horizon are not of his making but perhaps inevitable and due mostly to runaway population growth. We need democracy without politicians; there is a way.
Posted By: Parvez Amin | March 10, 2008 07:35:01 PM

Nawaz Sharif is the idiot of all.He makes Zardari look good.
Posted By: Rizwan | March 10, 2008 09:08:12 AM

All the winners of elections No more talk about Poor of Pakistan, Mahngai, Atta, electricity???? But all talk is where is going to be my goverment and where is going to be his government. People of Pakistan are left alone. Everyone is running after their minester positions. I truly wanted rigged elections because Pakistan deserves rigged elections. Look who we have on top now? If we can have internationally CONVICTED man, and a person still sought out by Interpol and still on NAB’s list as Next prime minister and who has served jail on corruption charges, then I can only pray for the well being of our country. What about the two foreigners who were arrested with the allegation of funding Lawyers movement? Musharraf saved Pakistan from breaking up into 4 provinces orchestrated by foreigners just like Iraq model. And know that Army is the only stable institute in Pakistan which defends the borders.
Posted By: Rizwan | March 10, 2008 08:39:49 AM

Interesting and pertinent article. I cannot see how two men (known liars and thieves) can be allowed to hold a press conference in the guise of democracy when neither has been elected to his post as the leader of their party and neither has been elected by the people. They should certainly do the decent thing by resigning, repay all that they have looted from the country and then have themselves locked up for 20 years or so for 'Treason'! Only then can anyone demand the resignation from the President. Furthermore, in all their deliberations these two only have the issue of the corrupt and disgraceful judges/lawyers and the President (who they don't like) there is never any discussion of the people of Pakistan and their worries. It is time Pakistan experienced arevolution similar to that of the French wherin these corrupt looters and liars are made to pay for their expolitation of the nation. Either that or let the President run the country as he seems the only one who 'tries' at least to put Pakistan First!
Posted By: patriot | March 10, 2008 07:59:26 AM


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