"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: Usman_Khalid
Full Name: Brig (R) Usman Khalid
User since: 20/Sep/2007
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Sweet and sour options for the major power players

By Shaheen Sehbai



(Shaheen Sehbai underlines how serious is the political crisis that grips Pakistan . He sees ‘resignations’ as effective means to put pressure on President Zardari to resign.  But that has never happened in Pakistan . Discreet pressure by the institutions of the state and foreign friends is more effective. An onslaught against the military and the Opposition leaders, as recommended, would be suicidal. It would result in the public losing faith in the judgement and wisdom of the CJ. In a parliamentary democracy, similar situations have been dealt with in other countries by the ruling party changing its leader. The PML(Q) did not change its leaders when they lost popularity, and it lost the support of its power base. If the PPP also cannot change its leader, the message to the country is that the Party system of Pakistan is flawed and it cannot deliver democracy. The task for each of the ‘players’ listed below is to do what is much easier and simpler – the parties should change the leader when he become unpopular. + Usman Khalid+)      


has almost reached a point in its history when major power players will have to take critical make-or-break decisions if the state has to avoid a total collapse into constitutional, judicial and political anarchy. And it is not just President Asif Zardari who has to make up his mind; all other players have to do so quickly. It includes Mian Nawaz Sharif, Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the PPP and MQM leader including Altaf Hussain who are crucial players. What options do these players have, if a wider view of the Pakistani scenario is taken? Here are some that comes to mind for each player:

Asif Ali Zardari. Having reached the lowest point of his politics in just 15 months of his presidency, this lucky man who had everything going for him, thanks to his late wife, has almost lost it all. The biggest challenge in front of him today is to survive and hide behind the immunity in the presidency, otherwise the courts, lawyers, prosecutors, opponents and the media, within and outside the country, will tear him apart, stripping him of all his wealth, known and hidden, disqualifying him from holding any office and turning him into an example. He would then either spend his time again in jail or go into exile, if he is allowed to.  What can he do now to control the damage and get the best deal out of a cornered situation?

He can resign but given the kind of arrogance and stubbornness he has shown, that would mean total surrender and he would lose everything. It is highly doubtful if he would be able to run the PPP if he were to surrender at this late moment, although he has a tendency to throw in the towel when he realises it is too late. March 16, 2009 was one such occasion. There are many other examples. He can wage a political battle and go down fighting and take the system with him but that will not help either him, his party or anyone else, which includes the country. The chances are he will try and go this route. But that would be suicidal.

He can withdraw into his shell and let others take charge, giving up his powers, amending relations with other political forces, giving up his arrogance and agreeing to stay quiet in his bunker in the presidency, protected from all the heavy artillery which is waiting to open fire once he comes into range. If he negotiates this package skillfully, he may get a few more months or his full term in his office. But then, he would be a lame duck - a humiliated and broken person hiding from his sins. It does not fit his personality. He can declare war, sack those with guns whom he blames in his speeches, ‘break the pen’ by cracking down on the media and canceling the notification which restored the sacked judges as of March 16, 2009 thus creating so much mess that Pakistan becomes ungovernable, and even dissolve the parliament. All these actions would be the desperate last charge of a berserk cornered hostage taker before he is taken out.

None of these options offers Zardari a win because he has chosen a destructive path. He is solely responsible for this pathetic plight because when he took over, he had been given a clean slate by everyone - the establishment, political parties, judiciary (then Dogar was the CJ), the media, international community, world financial institutions and the people of Pakistan . Despite all these positives, he drove himself into dirt. Now, instead of blaming others and becoming a political martyr, as a Pakistani patriot he should realise that his game is over and he should let the country and the system move on. He could stay on the sidelines and manage whatever part of the PPP he can retain, though his cronies will be the first to desert him, either becoming approvers or run into exile.

Mian Nawaz Sharif. He has played his cards well so far. But now he has to choose between Zardari and the political system. He allowed Zardari to self-destruct but he did that in his own interest and to keep looking like the good guy. Zardari knows he is going down but he is trying to take the system down with him and then start a Sindhi insurrection, claiming that he has again been targeted, not because of his follies but because he is from Sindh. What can Nawaz do? He could immediately call an all parties conference and put all the cards on the table. He could also call the PPP leaders and explain to them the stakes involved. He should tell them that either Zardari submits to the rule of law or the PPP takes action against him, otherwise everything may get destroyed. Already, the JUI, MQM and FATA are inclined to part ways with Zardari but stay in a coalition minus him if the system survives.

If the PPP leadership does not realise the threat and seriousness of the danger, Nawaz Sharif can threaten to resign en bloc from the National Assembly or take some other action to force a mid term election in the Centre while the provincial governments stay in place. The possibility is that the political system may not sustain this bitter war between politicians.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. The CJ has drawn clear the lines of responsibility of each pillar of the sate. But his most urgent and important challenge is to dispel the impression being built by Zardari and his cronies that a Sindhi leader or his party is being targeted. He has taken up the cause of constitutional supremacy but he must do something to neutralise this false perception. What can he do? He can reopen all corruption cases against all politicians including the Mehran Bank case and immediately call General Mirza Aslam Beg, Lt Gen Asad Durrani, Farooq Leghari, Nawaz Sharif and all those involved in order to establish that his target is not Zardari who opposed his restoration. He should start taking notice of the massive corruption of the Musharraf era as stalwarts of that period now roam around like champions of democracy and rule of law. He should also make it clear that if his judgments are not implemented, he would whatever is necessary including the use of Article 190.

General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. He has the most difficult balancing act but so far he has performed it well. He must at this stage make it absolutely clear where he stands in terms of supporting the Constitution and the judiciary. Although, it is understood that the Army has to stand by the Constitution, still the message must be sent so that people who have to make political decisions can decide quickly where they want to stand. Continuation of the political deadlock and a state of confrontation is not in anyone’s interest.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. He has to decide quickly whether and how he will match his deeds with his words. Too many of his goody-goody statements have not materialised into anything tangible. If he is faced with a stubborn and cornered president, the most dignified option he has is to resign and ask his party to nominate a new leader of the house. This may rock the boat for all, but the boat is already being rocked by his party leader. He has to stress that the PPP has a lot of major achievements under its belt, like the NFC Award, the Balochistan Package, elections in Gilgit and Baltistan, successes in the war on terror in Swat, Malakand and South Waziristan, rehabilitation of workers etc but all these solid gains have been thrown into the background by the issue of Zardari’s alleged personal corruption. Is washing one person’s sins more important than addressing numerous issues of the poor people? He can also take a position and firmly ask Zardari not to fight the system, submit his cases before the courts and prove his innocence as he (PM) himself did without taking the benefit of the NRO. He cannot continue to keep his feet in two boats, moving in different directions.

PPP & MQM. These political forces have to quickly decide whether they want to sink with Mr Zardari or rally other political forces to save the system and not individuals. The MQM has already shown they want to move away from the PPP on this issue. They have accepted the NRO and are not afraid of reopening of some 8,000 cases. So, the bulk of the NRO victims have submitted to the SC judgment. The PPP has to make up its mind and quickly.++

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