Punjab tug of war

Politics is the art of publicly nursing grudges and privately nurturing the idea of patching up at an opportune moment.

Written by Ruchika Talwar | Published: March 14, 2009 12:24:03 am

Politics is the art of publicly nursing grudges and privately nurturing the idea of patching up at an opportune moment. PPP’s chief rival,PMLQ — more than PMLN — epitomised this formula this week. While they spewed venom against the party and its leaders in the 2008 elections,a little over a year later,they are talking alliances with them in Punjab where their opponent,PMLN’s government was demolished last month. On March 9, Daily Times reported: “PMLQ will hold talks with PPP to negotiate an alliance if the efforts for reconciliation between the PPP and PMLN fail,PMLQ leaders Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain told Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer…” Quoting a TV channel,the report added: “PMLQ put forward a demand for the slot of the Punjab CM for a coalition government in the province…” Another channel added to the ongoing mayhem as it reported: “PPP and PMLQ had agreed on a power-sharing formula and Shujaat is likely to be made the leader of the House in Senate. Elahi would be given an important ministry in the Centre…and PMLQ would be given several ministries in the Centre and in Punjab.” However,The News,on the same day conveyed a totally different sense. It reported: “Pervaiz Elahi in a statement stated PMLQ has no wish to form government in Punjab and he still wants that PPP and PMLN should work together. He also offered to mediate between the PPP and the PMLN,which was vital to steer the country out of crises. The PMLQ,leader,however,didn’t soften the tone on the PMLN and criticised its leaders for showing disrespect to the public mandate and supporting the formation of forward bloc in the PMLQ.”

Boon or bane

Much to the surprise of cynical commentators,the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation between the NWFP government and the Taliban is bringing welcome news. The News on March 9 reported: “TNSM chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad,along with his black-turbanned activists,forced the Taliban fighters to end their blockade of the Takhtaband Road and open the bypass for traffic on a day when a convoy of the security forces carrying ration was attacked in a village known as militants’ stronghold in Swat. TNSM spokesman Amir Izzat Khan said after opening the bypass road,Sufi Muhammad would go an emerging stronghold of militants to remove the checkposts.” Meanwhile,the other entity in this accord,the ANP-led government in NWFP stressed its resolve to promote education for girls. Daily Times reported on March 9: “The government will never compromise on women’s education and rights,ANP’s NWFP President Afrasiab Khattak said… New bills would be tabled in the provincial assembly to empower the women of the province.” As NWFP CM signed the draft of the regulation on March 10,Daily Times reported the state’s law minister as saying: “The regulation would deal with criminal cases only — two appellate Shariat courts — Darul Qaza and Darul-Darul Qaza would be established in Malakand.”

Pakistan’s Ides of March?

The Long March which began on March 12 as a show of defiance against the government,and the strength of Pakistan’s crippled judiciary,made waves in Pakistani papers. The hero of the judges’ movement,the elusive Chaudhary Aitzaz Ahsan,in an interview to Dawn,said: “Many PPP supporters are with us because they know Benazir had promised them the judiciary would be restored — it is not true the movement does not have massive public support… People are just waiting for the right opportunity to come out on the streets.” With its iron fist,the democratically-elected government seems to be donning a dictatorial robe as The News observes in its editorial on March 12: “Even in Pakistan’s troubled history of democratic governance,it is rare to find examples of the kind of open fascism we are seeing today… In Islamabad and Rawalpindi,the action seems to have been even more vicious,with police goons arresting a prominent human rights activist after bursting violently into her home…The message is clear: the Zardari administration has laid aside all pretence of following democratic practice or even the mere norms of civilised conduct and has reacted in a manner that would make many bloodthirsty dictators proud.” As the march proceeds,PMLN leader Nawaz Sharif fears for his life. PM Yousaf Gilani attempted to soothe his nerves as Daily Times reported on March 13: “Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani directed the authorities to provide foolproof security to Sharif and ensure his safety.”

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