By Muhammad Khurshid
Khar, Bajaur Agency,Tribal Areas Pakistan
Terrorists hiding in tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border have been getting breathing space as all attention has been diverted to the power game being played in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan after election. According to tribal elders, the terrorists will certainly use the time for strengthening their position.
Terrorists have destroyed the whole infrastructure in the tribal areas. All the girl schools have been blown up in Bajaur Agency, tribal areas. Now there are worries among the parents of girls as they are still in confusion whether their children will get education or not. There was a time when a force of terrorists were fighting war against the security forces, but now all of sudden both the parties silenced the guns. There are many questions, which the rulers must anwser.
Writing about the power game in Islamabad Daily Times stated in its editorial that the leading parties in the country, PPP and PMLN, say they have agreed to form coalition governments in Islamabad and Lahore, with the ANP lending a hand in Islamabad to ensure that it is not deprived of its rights in the NWFP as the largest party in the assembly. The calculus on offer implies that each party will get representation in the cabinet according to its proportion in the National Assembly. But there are caveats here too. Mr Asif Ali Zardari is still talking of a “national government”, and Mr Nawaz Sharif is dropping hints about supporting the PPP “from the outside”.
There are other areas of ambiguity too. The two parties are seen addressing the issue of the judges’ restoration differently. The PMLN is responding directly to the lawyers’ movement and sending reassuring signals to its erstwhile partners in the APDM. The PPP says the parliament will decide the judges’ issue although Mr Zardari has not been averse to dropping hints that he might get the judges back in their seats. This applies also to the future status of President Pervez Musharraf. They seem to agree on the restoration of the 1973 Constitution but they might get stuck when it comes to deciding the “cut off” date.
There is a report in the press saying that the central executive committee (CEC) of the PPP held a marathon meeting right after the two-hour meeting between Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif, and bickered over the judges’ case. There is supposed to have been a “heated discussion” on whether the judges had to be “restored” or the judiciary made “independent”. Some members were of the opinion that “talks with Nawaz Sharif could only move ahead if the PPP too come out openly with the option of reinstatement of the dismissed judges”. This suggests that Mr Sharif has succeeded in putting Mr Zardari under pressure on an issue dear to Pakistan’s inflamed civil society, but the PPP’s CEC is still said to have stuck to the “independent judiciary” line, leaving at least some of the fired judges to stay fired.
As if to provide chorus to the PPP-PMLN action on the political stage, the lawyers have hit the roads again amid familiar stone-pelting and lathi-charge which shows the police in a bad light and the state as a horrible anti-citizen entity. Ex-chief justice Mr Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has called out from his house that the 60 judges fired for not submitting to the PCO can be reinstated by another administrative order and that the new parliament should not endorse President Musharraf’s firing. Mr Nawaz Sharif has responded to the statement by saying, “Iftikhar Chaudhry was chief justice and remains chief justice”, while Mr Asif Zardari has reserved his judgement.
Clearly, the ex-judges have found it impossible to avoid being politicised. Far from exercising restraint as enjoined by their status, they have shown a tendency of being overwhelmed by the excessive articulation of the lawyers. Eulogising the deposed chief justice, an “affectee” judge of the Lahore High Court, Justice Khwaja Sharif, stated that “if a judge performs his duties fairly, justly and honestly, he must then be termed not less than a saint”. Then he said something that a judge who has to sit in judgement over all kinds of cases should have left to the more outspoken lawyers: “The US fears the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s suo moto notices regarding recovery of the missing persons”.
Unless the PPP and PMLN decide at the outset what their stance is going to be, misunderstandings can and will occur. Accepted that the final decision about the judges will be taken after the government has been formed in Islamabad, but the disorder that is sure to prevail after the passing of the March 8 deadline for their restoration, will adversely affect the standing of the parties. There is no doubt that the PPP will be at a disadvantage in this because it will come under pressure from civil society, and the PMLN will feel tempted to arm-twist it.
Given this situation, the two mainstream parties must think of collaboration over the long term to save their gains from frittering away. They must adhere to their pledge to help each other at the central and provincial levels and not to destabilise each other as was their pattern in the past. Both arouse strange emotions within the Islamabad establishment. One party fears the establishment; the other scares it, but with the same result. Their resolve that they will let each other rule for five years will be realised only if they undertake not to antagonise each other, keep their more visceral members in check, and give top priority to the economy that has enough buoyancy to be saved through careful stewardship.
And that is a tall order.