Archive for March 23rd, 2008

ppp.gifSince the February 18th elections and the formation of a new coalition government in Pakistan, the issue over the country’s Prime Minister candidate has been clouded with intrigue and conflicting stories. Although the reported PM front runner following the elections was reportedly Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the PPP‘s vice chairman, recent reports indicated that the senior party politician was being “edged out of the spotlight” in favor of other candidates, [see previous post, “Bye Bye Amin Fahim.”] The rumors and “insider reports” ended Saturday when the PPP named Makhdoom Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani as their candidate for Pakistan’s next PM. According to the Associated Press today, “Lawmakers are expected to confirm him in a parliamentary vote Monday. He is a shoo-in after opposition parties swept elections last month and Musharraf is then expected to swear him in Tuesday.”
In the midst of such news attention, CHUP thought it would be interesting to interview Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, a senior PPP leader who recently defeated Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the leader of the PML-Q in the February elections. He was also considered to be another PM front runner prior to Saturday’s decision. In our effort to continuously give our readers insight into Pakistani current affairs, CHUP sat down and interviewed Mr. Mukhtar on his views on the current coalition government, the PPP’s popularity, and the issues currently plaguing the country.
Why do you feel your party, the PPP, received such an overwhelming majority in the elections?

The performance of the last government was disappointing for various groups of our society. For instance, the poorest people of Pakistan have been victims of the government’s inability to control inflation, while the business community has suffered because of the worsening law and order situation. Furthermore, the previous government was not able to manage the provision of basic necessities. I believe that the people of Pakistan were looking for a change and fresh start and therefore they voted for PPP.

What do you attribute your electoral success to in particular, considering that you defeated the PML-Q’s most prominent leader, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain in your constituency?

During the regime of the previous government, the city of Gujarat has hardly seen improvement in any aspect, particularly the law and order situation and the unavailability of basic necessities such as clean drinking water and a proper sewerage system. For the last five years, I have been personally in touch with the people of Gujarat and am aware of the problems they are facing. Therefore, my mandate is to address these problems and improve the standard of living in Gujarat.

There have been conflicting media reports surrounding the appointment of the Prime Minister – although news sources originally suggested that title would go to Makhdoom Amin Fahim, there are increasing rumors that this is no longer the case. Moreover, there have also been reports that Asif Ali Zardari wants to be PM – could we get your opinion on these rumors and others that indicate potential fractures in the PPP and shifts in the party’s power base?

As far as the candidature of Amin Fahim is concerned, it is based on earlier statements of the Party leadership. However, after the elections the scenario has changed and a number of other candidates have been added in the race. Furthermore, the Party has requested Asif Ali Zardari to take the position of the Prime Minister despite the fact that he has informed the people of Pakistan that he is not interested in the premiership. And no, if Amin Fahim does not become the Prime Minister, there will not be a shift in the power base of the party because it is united under the leadership of Asif Ali Zardari.

What do you feel is the most important crisis currently facing the country? How will this new coalition government tackle it?

I consider the breakdown of law and order and the collapse in the provision of basic utilities as the foremost issues facing the country. (which has hurt the industrial sector tremendously). The new political government will tackle the law and order issue through the elected representatives from areas such as Wana and Waziristan. These representatives will be asked to negotiate with the tribal people who are without the basic necessities of life. We believe that through better policies if proper development and employment opportunities are provided in these areas, the situation of law and order will improve. As far as the utilities are concerned, the new government will take into confidence the people who had earlier set up electrical powerhouses. The new government aims to encourage people to come forward and establish such companies on urgent basis by providing them attractive rates and growth friendly policies.

There is very low public opinion of President Musharraf at this time – will the government continue to demand his resignation?

As the government consists of various parties and is going to form a consensus government, all decisions will be taken in the parliament. And there is no denying that President Musharraf ratings have gone down as it is evident by the result of the 2008 elections.

Do you think the PPP and the PML-N will be able to maintain a united coalition despite their historic rivalry?

In spite of our historic rivalry, the magnitude of the crises faced by the country has compelled us to work together for a better future. I believe we need to continue to work together to bring this country out of the problems it faces. These problems are colossal and will take us at least three to four years to properly address and achieve the goals the new government has/will set.

Read Full Post »