[Image from the AP, PML-N supporters following a demonstration in Rawalpindi]
…the PPP has opted for a dangerous path of confrontation. Nawaz Sharif, who himself is guilty of increasing bellicosity in recent weeks, immediately upped the ante further by coming out with extraordinary allegations against President Zardari. Where we go from here is anybody’s guess, though it’s safe to say that little good will come out of it. There are several immediate worries. The PML-N may take to the streets in Punjab and threaten a severe law and order crisis. The lawyer’s long march may now culminate in violent confrontation. The federation may feel the strains of pitting the largest province against the center. And on the back-burner may go the country’s serious crises of militancy, the economy and governance. Democracy is not dead in Pakistan, but common sense may be.
The News’ Ayaz Amir, in an op-ed entitled, “So What Else Did Anyone Expect,” wrote, “with the Sharifs’ disqualification by a bench of the Supreme Court – headed by a chief justice whose close links to Zardari are well known – followed by the ouster of the PML-N government in Punjab and the imposition of governor’s rule, Zardari has let slip the mask from his face by revealing his naked ambition: this time to extend his power and wrest control of Pakistan’s largest province.” Amir added, “This is a dangerous gambit with unpredictable consequences because it remains to be seen whether he is able to master the crisis he has sparked or whether it becomes too big for him …one thing about a crisis we should know: you either master it or it devours you, as Pervez Musharraf discovered to his cost when his action against Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry triggered the lawyers’ movement, leading to a series of events over which he had less and less control.”
I do not doubt that the Supreme Court decisions were inherently political in nature. But I wonder what state the country will be in after the violence, protests, and political infighting end. What will be left after the dust settles? Dawn’s Cyril Almeida asserted, “Domestic upheaval even at the best of times is deeply damaging to Pakistan. But the unique combination of all major players simultaneously discredited while an exogenous threat to the state gathers, that is a scenario that can have catastrophic consequences for the state as we know it.”
The Nation’s editorial noted, “The dreams for a tolerant political culture and a viable democracy have been shattered. With uncertainty gripping the country, questions are being raised if the government would be able to complete its tenure.” In the Nation’s opinion, Zardari “needs to seriously weigh the consequences. He alone is in a position to call the ugly standoff to a halt. For this there is need on his part to employ whatever legal, constitutional and administrative means are available to him to undo the disqualification of the Sharifs and maintain the PPP-PML(N) alliance in Punjab.” In the recent issue of the Friday Times, Dr. Hasan Askari-Rizvi, echoed, “If the PPP-PML(N) confrontation spills over in the streets in the Punjab and Islamabad, both will lose and the future of democracy will become more uncertain. If democracy falters under these circumstances the major blame will be on these political parties.” Oh, the irony – “democracy” damaged by its own actors?
In the wake of these political tensions, issues related to the Swat and the tribal areas seem to have been placed on the back burner. Ayesha Siddiqa, however, succintly related the two issues in her Dawn op-ed, “The Price of Justice,” noting,
Everyone wants justice in Pakistan including the deposed chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the lawyers, Mukhtaran Mai and ordinary people. However, the only group that eventually got the government to agree to implement a system of justice they wanted – and popularly called the Nizam-i-Adl – is the Swati Taliban. So, the moral of our story is that justice will be granted to the most brutal bidder.
That may be a good albeit depressing thought to leave on. Happy weekend everyone. Here’s to hoping – for the people’s sake – that things don’t unravel further.