Pakistan facing another major political crisis


LAHORE: Barely a year after the public voted out the Musharraf regime and reinstated faith in a democratically elected government, Pakistan is once again faced with a major political crisis due to heightening tensions between two major coalition partners – the Zardari-led PPP and the Sharif led PML-N.

Background discussions and interviews with political stalwarts suggest that the political situation would aggravate in case the two sides failed to resolve their differences ahead of the proposed long march and sit-in in the federal capital by the lawyers’ community inarch for the reinstatement of the superior courts judges sacked by General Musharraf. “It would be extremely unfortunate if both sides failed to rise above their personal interests to resolve differences,” said a senior political leader on condition of anonymity, adding that the top leadership of the two coalition parties had resorted to direct criticism to drive political mileage after having failed to honour their public commitments on national issues.

Amidst strong rumours that the Supreme Court of Pakistan led by a Musharraf appointed chief justice was about to disqualify Nawaz Sharif from running for the National Assembly, Sharif has openly blamed President Asif Zardari, who is also the PPP Chairman, for siding with the judiciary and hatching a conspiracy to get the Sharif Brothers disqualified. Analysts say the powerful salvo fired by a highly frustrated Sharif towards Islamabad may change the course of events in the days to come. Already there are clear indications that the wedge between the Zardari government and Sharif-led opposition may soon take the form of an all-out confrontation as Sharif has already announced to join the lawyers’ proposed long march against the PPP government.

In some ways it is vintage Pakistani politics, in which one year is too long a period in the life of an elected government, and destabilisation is the name of the game. The Sword of Damocles hanging over Nawaz Sharif’s head in the form of the disqualification case in the Supreme Court and the never-ending diatribe by a belligerent PPP governor in Punjab, who is trying to dislodge the provincial government of the Sharifs, are enough to convince him that his political career was being consciously undercut. Still, very few in the country had expected him to open up his heart in a manner that looks like a virtual declaration of war with Asif Zardari.

PPP leaders may have their own reasons to accuse Nawaz Sharif of making the restoration of judges an unnecessary point of prestige, but the point remains that President Asif Zardari publicly, and in writing, made such promises, and never fulfilled them. Then the Sharif brothers are convinced that the disqualification case is likely to go against them, keeping in view the hostile statements coming from the Punjab Governor, saying that the PMNL-N government in Punjab is on its way out. Given all this, a Sharif-led campaign can give a major boost to the lawyers’ movement besides pushing the country to another phase of chaos and anarchy.

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