Pakistan in crisis

Politicians have once again badly let down the people of this South Asian country. Here we go again. After a year or two of smooth sail, Pakistan’s nascent democracy has hit turbulence yet again. In fact, the South Asian nation’s history has been so hopelessly dominated by the recurring instability that peaceful and “democratic” interregnums such as the last couple of years are seen as exception, rather than the rule. But given the inherent contradictions of the colorful coalition led by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, it’s no wonder it finds itself living on the edge midway through its term. The departure of Altaf Hussain’s MQM from the government led by Pakistan People’s Party is bad news. The London-based mercurial leader has also threatened to walk out of the regional coalition in Sind, if the governing party of President Asif Ali Zardari doesn’t “mend its ways.”

The regional party that once championed the cause of the Mohajirs, the people who arrived from India in the wake of the 1947 partition of the subcontinent, has been peeved after a PPP leader in Sind attacked the MQM on its home turf. This is why President Zardari chose the third anniversary of the death of his wife, Benazir Bhutto, to caution his party against targeting “allies.” Clearly, though, there’s more to this spat between the allies than meets the eye. Altaf Hussain has been venting his anger against the PPP for quite some time, calling for a “French Revolution” in Pakistan, whatever that means. Maybe it’s his way of extracting his pound of flesh. Given right persuasion, his party could always return to the coalition. Or the canny politician that he is, has Hussain concluded this coalition is a sinking ship and must be abandoned in time? Whatever the explanation, this crisis couldn’t have come at a worse time for Pakistan, what with the nation fighting multiple crises on the economic and security front. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of Jamiatul Ulema-i-Islam, who quit the coalition two weeks ago, has demanded Gilani’s head, urging the PPP to pick a new PM. Incidentally, both Jamiatul Ulema and MQM had been close allies of a certain Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Clearly, this is a crisis of confidence and leadership that is not just limited to Prime Minister Gilani. If the coalition partners are fast abandoning it, it’s a sign of the general disgruntlement and sense of betrayal sweeping the country. Honeymoon has been dramatically short for the governing party. And the PPP has no one to blame but itself for having squandered the massive public support and sympathy mandate it earned after the shocking assassination of Benazir Bhutto. In fact, Zardari owes his smooth sail into the presidential palace after it was vacated by Musharraf to the tragic end of his charismatic wife. However, while a sympathy wave can get a political party into power, if it is to remain in power it has to actually perform. And the current dispensation has failed to do so. The economic situation is a mess with basic necessities of life getting ever distant for ordinary people. And the less said of the security situation the better. The only Muslim nuclear power is treated by its so-called friends and allies like their colony, killing innocent civilians at will. The question is, how long can this go on? Not for long, if Pakistan’s leaders do not act — and fast. The country is passing through a critical phase in its history and complaisance could have unimaginable consequences. – Arabnews