Pakistan: Why PML(N) left coalition?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

When writing my previous post, I feared – like many others – that unnatural alliance of PML-N and PPP will break apart soon. Though it was expected to fall since its birth yet everyone wished for its success, hoped that those who were voted for change will bring something positive in this country, believed that these politicians – not leaders – have learned while in exile. Coalition breaking apart and two major parties going their own ways has started politics like 90s –politics with full of hatred and vengeance.

Apparently, restoration of judiciary was the main issue between two parties – PMLN and PPP to part ways; this is what PMLN is advertising to get more fame and to score against PPP – one must admit PMLN’s tactics to use the power of media. No doubt Nawaz Sharif’s stance on judges’ issue has earned him great fame and popularity but this doesn’t mean that PMLN is a party of principles. It also doesn’t mean that PMLN decided to sit on opposition benches because judges were not restored.

Judges’ issue would have been resolved long time ago if both parties wanted; both PMLN and PPP needed it to be unresolved for other reasons. It never has been an issue of principles for Sharif and Zardari. However, today’s post is not about judiciary or judges issue – I will write about it some other time.

Since February 18th – to be more accurate, since March 22nd – both Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari are following two different outlines. Asif Zardari, with a script from America, was busy in strengthening its govt. and getting things in his own hands; reconciliation with MQM, alliance with PMLN, JUI and ANP, Musharraf’s impeachment and not restoring judges was all milestones for his long term plan. He has played his card very cleverly – though at the cost of his and his party’s popularity. On the other hand, Nawaz Sharif, surprised by his party’s surprise victory in February 18th elections, kept his eyes on the next elections. His all moves, including his stance on judges’ issue, alliance with PPP – without sharing responsibility of govt. failures – and his statements against Musharraf and America, were all to be in-cashed in next election.

After getting Musharraf out, electing a non-PPP president and restoring Iftikhar Chuadhary – not judiciary necessarily – Sharif’s next move would have been call for early election but Asif Zardari had different plans. Zardari gathered parties together and mounted pressure on Musharraf – with approval of foreign stakeholders – and got rid of him. Once Musharraf is out, it was logical for Zardari himself to claim presidency; considering his plan to grab power in his hands and powers that still reside with presidency AND considering PPP’s experience with Farooq Laghari in 90s. However, PMLN could not accept Zardari (or PPP nominated) president unless the president’s powers are clipped – especially 58-2(B), the power to dissolve assemblies.

Letting PPP to get a grip at presidency – with so much powers – was in direct conflict with PMLN’s plan – the plan for early elections.

How?

Zardari – (Co-?)Chairman of PPP – becoming president will make sure that PPP govt. will not be dissolved using 58-2(b) – President’s power to dissolve assembly. And with Army recently getting out of politics, America’s support for PPP and Zardari sitting in presidency will make it almost impossible for PMLN to get into election before year 2013 – when current assemblies completes five year term. On the other hand, if – somehow – we go into early elections and PMLN wins, as it is expected with growing popularity, to a majority to forms the govt., it will be under constant threat by president house. Zardari sitting in presidency, with 58-2(B) powers to dissolve the assembly will not let PMLN play easily. This is why least acceptable option for PMLN was to clip 58-2(b) off before PPP installs its own president. So it will be like a catch-22 for PMLN if Zardari is elected as president with all the powers remaining with him as they were with Musharraf.

Understanding this catch-22 for PMLN, it is not hard to believe that judges’ issue is nothing (or least) to do with fall of coalition but it was about a president who can or cannot send current govt. home – when PMLN will be looking for it. If independent judiciary was ever important to PMLN, Supreme Court would not have been attacked under Sharif’s govt. – and by Sharif’s folks. If Chief Justice Iftikhar was any important to PMLN, it would not have nominated a Judge – Justice Siddiqui – who had thrown his own Chief Justice, Sajjad Ali Shah, out of office in 1997 – again under Sharif’s govt. Zardari’s broken promises also have nothing to do with PMLN parting ways from PPP as Sharif himself has a long list of his own broken promises – if one starts counting.

For people like us, it is all about politics of principles and about broken promises – that made coalition fall. And funny as it is that we – well, most of us – believe that.

Having said all this, nothing in this post justifies that Zardari is the right person for president to be elected. It also doesn’t justify any of the wrong doings of PPP – in present or past. This just to unleash PMLN – image that is hidden under untrue campaign of “principles”.

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