The brothers Sharif

After the official annulment of the doomed marriage between Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) last year,the strange bedfellows seemed desperate for another date.....

Written by Ruchika Talwar | Published: February 28, 2009 12:28:30 am

After the official annulment of the doomed marriage between Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) last year,the strange bedfellows seemed desperate for another date,this time in Pakistan’s Supreme Court. As is widely believed,the Asif Ali Zardari-led PPP influenced its handpicked judiciary to hand PMLN leaders Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif their disqualification from electoral politics and holding political office. This move stems from the ideological divergence between the two parties over the contentious judges issue,which had become the mainstay of the Nawaz Sharif-led PMLN. Dawn’s cogent editorial on February 26 laid it straight: “Defenders of the Supreme Court,the few that there are,will argue on narrow technical and legal grounds in defence of the court’s validation of the Sharif brothers’ disqualification from electoral politics. But this would be thoroughly misleading. The grounds for the Sharifs’ disqualification were laid by a dictator and no one with an iota of common sense could accept that Pervez Musharraf was trying to uphold the rule of law … There is no doubt that the collision course the PPP and PML-N increasingly appeared to be on in recent weeks was not of the judiciary’s making. Both parties have chosen political confrontation at the expense of governance and addressing the grave problems that face the state….The judiciary has done a disservice to the people by injecting itself into a patently political issue in a way that will only worsen short-term instability and do nothing for long-term betterment.” The brothers had been expecting such a move for a while,and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani,had allayed their fears regarding PPP’s intention of toppling their government in Punjab. But clearly,the Sharifs’ fears were not ill-founded.

The big deal

On February 25,all major papers welcomed the extension of the 10-day truce between the Taliban and the NWFP government into an indefinite ceasefire. Daily Times reported: “Swat Taliban declared an indefinite ceasefire in the valley and freed four policemen and three Frontier Constabulary troops….Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah announced the decision in a speech that was cut short when the security forces blocked the transmission of his FM radio channel. He asked his men to stop displaying weapons,end their armed patrols and not to attack security convoys or abduct government officials,according to copies of the speech sent to the media. He urged the government to restore all officials removed during the unrest in Swat….Fazlullah ordered his commanders to disband their checkpoints,which he said created ‘unnecessary problems’ for residents.” The Baitullah Mehsud-led Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in neighbouring FATA mirrored the Swat truce in FATA’s Bajaur Agency. The News reported on February 24: “Following the signing of the accord,Maulvi Faqir Mohammad,Taliban commander in Bajaur and deputy leader of TTP,announced unilateral ceasefire through his widely-heard FM radio.” Another interesting dimension of the administrative remedies being adopted by the NWFP government came to the fore when CM announced the arming of civilians to fight the crisis. The News reported: “CM Ameer Haider Khan Hoti has directed officials to distribute 30,000 rifles among ‘patriotic people’ and ‘peace loving groups’ to guard their villages and help the police tackle terrorism…Authorities approved the setting up of an Elite Police Force by sanctioning 2,657 vacancies. The government would give rifles to civilians after proper scrutiny by a committee.”

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