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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

They aren’t going anywhere

Speculation apart,the PPP-led government will scrape through.

Written by Ejaz Haider |
December 31, 2010 3:05:55 am

The Cassandras have gone into overdrive again,predicting terrible tidings for Pakistani politics. Welcome to the new round of the old! There are two schools: the extreme one says the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government is about to fall,while the moderate school thinks the jig is up for PM Yousaf Raza Gilani. The-government-is-about-to-fall school has got it wrong in the past year and is about to lose the wager again. Their assessment was that with Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat-e Ulema-e Islam (JUI-F) leaving the coalition,followed by the exit from the cabinet of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) — precursor to the party’s crossing over to the opposition benches — the move was on.Pray,a move by whom? The establishment,of course,who else? And to what end does the (ahem) establishment want to get rid of this government? The government is corrupt and is not delivering; the economy is in bad shape; people are getting restive,et cetera. Agreed,but how would getting rid of them turn things around,unless the next bunch can abracadabra its way to happy times? The moderate school of Cassandras has another theory. According to them,Gilani is on his way out. Tongues have wagged and thumbs worked to the bone texting allegations of Gilani’s swelling fortune made through illegal means. Funnily,no one has gone to court so far and the income tax department hasn’t come into play. Allied with this is the argument that Gilani has failed to deliver and has got his lackeys appointed to important positions.The theory is that President Asif Zardari wants to get rid of Gilani and has created the crisis so he can axe him. Here,the establishment has been replaced by Zardari pulling the strings. Let’s consider this thesis. The current “crisis” began when Rehman walked out of the coalition after Gilani sacked Azam Swati,a JUI-F minister. Gilani also sacked Hamid Kazmi,a PPP minister. The two sackings followed a suo motu notice taken by the Supreme Court of complaints regarding Haj arrangements for pilgrims. After Rehman walked out,he also demanded that Gilani be sacked for “sabotaging” the politics of reconciliation. Let’s now test our Zardari-done-it theory. There are two possibilities: one,if we consider this a gameplan,would go like this — Zardari first created the Haj scam,then induced the SC to take notice of it,then prevailed upon Gilani to sack Swati,then got Rehman to walk out of the coalition and then told him to ask for Gilani’s removal. Too many “thens” don’t wash.The second possibility is that Zardari decided,after Rehman walked out of the coalition,to take advantage of the situation and get rid of Gilani. In this case,Zardari might be accused of leveraging a situation to his advantage but not of creating it as part of a bigger plan. Question: why would he want to replace Gilani when Gilani is also his best bet with the PML-N?But wait. There’s another crisis too,presumably a bigger one involving 25 members of the MQM and not just the half dozen or so JUI-F legislators. If the MQM walks out,Gilani’s government goes. He has support of 185 MNAs in the 342-member house,just 13 more than the required 172.

Here,the situation becomes more complex. Is the MQM in on Zardari’s get-Gilani plan? Consider. The MQM has three main concerns: controlling Karachi,which means local government control; the rise of the Awami National Party (ANP) in the metropolis; and what it perceives as covert PPP support for the ANP. The cumulative effect,the MQM thinks,is the attempt to dilute its control of Karachi. For the MQM,losing Karachi means death.Equally,however,the MQM knows that while it can effectively try brinkmanship to extract concessions from the PPP government,if it goes over the brink,all bets are off. Which is why,while it has decided to leave the cabinet,it stays on the treasury benches. If there were a larger conspiracy,with the MQM in cahoots with the “establishment”,the party would have taken a single leap across the political divide. In fact,by picking up a quarrel with the PML-N,a freak happening which has involved both sides trading personal allegations,the MQM has also weakened its bargaining position vis-a-vis the PPP. If it were to walk over to the opposition benches,the PML-N is unlikely to let the government fall.Corollary: short of any irrational move by one or more players,we are likely to wake up on the morning of January 1,2011,to contend with the same faces.

The writer is contributing editor,‘The Friday Times’,Lahore

express@expressindia.com

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