When scores of journalists came down to Karachi from Islamabad last month they did not come empty handed. What better gifts they could have brought for their Karachi friends, then reports, rumours and juicy gossips — all the behind the scene happenings in the capital.
Most of them believe that the coming few months are crucial for Pakistan’s politics and may decide what direction it may take in the election year. They were also of the view that there are two prominent lobbies in the power circles: One wants the establishment to patch up with Ms. Bhutto and assure her that she would not be arrested on her return before the elections. The implied side of this deal is that she will have to go through the legal procedure to settle the cases against her and the government would not push them either.
No it’s not impossible, as some would like us to believe, everything is possible in politics in Pakistan. Remember when Ms. Bhutto struck a deal with President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in the nineties. The same apparently principled Ghulam Ishaq Khan administered oath to Asif Zardari, who was the major target of serious allegations when he sacked Mr. Bhutto’s government. Then came the interim government of Moin Qureshi, which was supposed to be independent. But it demolished Nawaz Sharif’s governments economic fort brick by brick before the elections. Of course the man was seasoned and did this subtly.
The other view, which seems to have managed to sway the decision, Islamabad insiders say is that the government should hold the elections first and then enter into an adjustment with PPP. Their rationale is that any patch up before the election would give Ms. Bhutto more seats and then it would be hard to bargain with her. Some PPP insiders have the reverse argument that the deal should be finalised before the elections and that fair elections are not possible under the present political dispensation.
There are also reports that the Bush administration is trying to use the rising political temperature in Pakistan to pressurize the government. Haven’t we seen this game before? Whenever the US government wanted to pressurize General Zia, although he was their darling and partner in crime in Afghanistan insurgency, they used to wink at MRD that their democratic movement would be supported. The US together with Afghanistan is trying to pass on the blame of their failure to control the Taliban on Pakistan. On the other hand Musharraf’s government is challenged to check the growing Talibanisation in the province bordering Afghanistan. Pakistani security forces are already bogged down with resistance in that area and many have lost lives fighting the terrorists.
Increased US pressure and signals that in this region India is the super power is not leaving any option for the government but to start showing some signs of independence. People close to the establishment say that most of the top brass agrees that President Bush was an unpleasant guest when he descended on us a few months back. Recent moves by Pakistan to balance its relations and take interest in Shanghai Cooperation is the step in the right direction. I think this alliance is going to be important in the future and may change the paradigm where US is acting arrogantly because it considers itself as the only super power of the world.
Friends from Islamabad say the ARD is banking on American support and some change at the top in the establishment due to retirement. This reminds me that when Ms. Bhutto had returned after a long exile in the eighties, she said this fall the Zia government should fall. It was later deciphered by the analysts that both Ms. Bhutto and Prime Minister Junejo wanted the man of their choice at the number two position, which was not Zia’s choice. So this fall also the heat in political circles can be attributed to similar optimism.
What is ironic that our politicians speak against the army rule and US dictation in public but behind the scene they hobnob with them to come to power. It speaks volumes about their belief in people’s power. Or, should we say our politicians are pragmatic. Am I being idealist? On idealism let me leave you with a dream, which Tagore had and many idealist in the sub-continent share, no matter which side of the divide they live:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls; …
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of death habit;
Into the heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.