Inconsistent Politics, Unstable Pakistan

Last week was a time of great upheaval in the politics of Pakistan. The entire world watched Pakistan politics curiously. On all sides, the expectation was that the Pakistani army could overpower the government at any time. During the guesses, the discussions among the Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, President Asif Ali Zardari and Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani went on continuously.

At one time, there was media speculation that due to the fear of overturn of rule, President Zardari had gone underground. At that time it seemed that the next moment, democracy in Pakistan would breathe its last and the army will retake charge of the government. Settling these rumours, it was clarified from the President’s office that Zardari is in his residence and he is quite safe there.

nawaz sharif and asif zardari

The reason behind this upheaval in Pakistan seemed that the head of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was demanding the reinstatement of the form Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhary and all other sacked judges and for that he was organizing a long march towards Islamabad.

Because of the present anarchy and terrorism in Pakistan, this march was considered an unsafe and dangerous step. The curtain dropped over this politics when on Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Gilani announced that after the retirement of the present Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Donger next Saturday, the sacked Chief Justice along with all the sacked judges will be reinstated and Choudhary would take charge as the next Chief Justice. Certainly politically it is seen as a big victory for Nawaz Sharif and a political blow Sharif to President Zardari.

Before looking at this incident, we need to glance over the political personae of Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari. Nawaz Sharif who was born in December 25, 1949 is counted among the big industrialists of Pakistan. He has always been active in grassroots politics.

Because of such political activism in 1990 and 1997 he twice became the Prime Minister of Pakistan. At present he is chief of the PML (N). Born in 1955, Asif Ali Zardari has fifth rank among the rich industrialists of Pakistan. His introduction to politics began after his marriage to Benazir Bhutto in December, 1987. After his marriage, he began to play a political role.

First of all, he was elected to the national assembly two times during 1990 to 1996. During this period, Zardari twice had the chance to become a federal minister in Pakistan. He remained senator during 1997 to 1999. His wife, the late Benazir Bhutto was also elected Prime Minister twice.

In December, 2007, after an election meeting, Bhutto was assassinated. Her son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was not politically mature, so as a sympathy gesture, Pakistan People’s Party made Zardari their acting President.

Notwithstanding that Zardari was made President on sympathetic grounds, the people of Pakistan were unable to digest this move because of his proir jail for many years on corruption charges. He was also notoriously called Mr. Ten Percent.

Sharif and Bhutto, two big leaders of Pakistan and away from Pakistan, who were unhappy with the of rule of General Parvez Musharraf, because united against the dictatorship of Musharraf and signed in 2006, a ‘Charter of Democracy’.

It contained three main points and was signed by Sharif and Bhutto. First was to establish Democracy in Pakistan, at all costs. Second was to remain away from mutual confrontation. And third was to end the role of the army in the politics of the country.

The rvalry between Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), is similar to that between the Indian Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party. Just as the two parties never stand together in India, similarly in Pakistan, both the PPP and the PML (N) are poles apart.

It was the ‘marvel’ of Musharraf that brought together both of these parties having opposite ideologies and made them stand on one Platform. The platform was to free the country from the grip of the army or Musharraf and restore democracy in the country.

But during the election process and after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the political equations seemed to have changed clearly. After the killing of Bhutto and because of the sympathetic wave, even Nawaz Sharif called her his sister. In fact such a statement by Sharif was because of the circumstances and not based on reality. So after a little hesitation and moulding himself according to circumstances, he accepted Zardari as the 11th President of Pakistan. But whether it be India or Pakistan, the politicians are always in search of opportunities.

Circumstances made Zardari President of the country. But terrorism was continuously increasing during that time. Taliban was strengthening itself. Suicide attacks were increasing. The power of the Taliban increased to the extent that they set a NATO depot on fire.

During this anarchy in Pakistan, the time was full of shame for Pakistan government when on March 3; the cricket team of Sri Lanka in Pakistan was attacked in daylight by 12 terrorists. This incident compelled the President and the Prime Minister to feel ashamed before the world. The USA pressured the Pakistani government to control the deteriorating situation as early as possible.

Obviously, Nawaz Sharif, a clever, mature politician couldn’t let a chance slip from his reach and he struck while the iron was hot. The march to Islamabad for reinstatement of the sacked judges was merely an issue. Actually, Sharif wanted to deal a heavy political blow to Zardari. Sharif wanted to show that there is no one in the country to compete with him in Pakistani politics.

Now the assumptions are that after Saturday, after the reinstatement of the sacked judges, Sharif will get credit and power in judicial setup at the same time. Zardari will feel politically small before Sharif. There is speculation that in the near future, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani may play a political game along with Nawaz Sharif so that Zardari is relieved of the President’s office.

Whatever the case, at present the happy news for the world is that Pakistan, once again, has escaped the clutches of the army.

Tanveer Jafri is an award-winning journalist and peace activist, based in India, covering communal harmony and social activities.