Stand Off (14-03-2009)

It would be hazardous for any political analyst to forecast on a Saturday afternoon, what would be the out come of the opposition-lawyers sit-in on the coming Monday the16th. As I write this column the political situation is in state of flux. So let’s examine the attitude of all the players so far.

Everybody, whether it is a friendly country or independent political commentator, is pleading for sanity. But both the government and PML (N) lawyers’ alliance have so far not shown some flexibility perhaps for fear of loosing face. Both are not realising that when the people are sick and tired of this stand off, anybody who would show flexibility would be the end beneficiary. People and history always side with those who have sagacity and statesmanship, and not with hard nuts who suffer from ego.

The major burden of showing flexibility is always on the government. President Zardari should not think that by showing flexibility unilaterally, he will be weakened and it would be political success of Sharif brothers or the lawyers’ movement. He should remember that higher one rises the lower he/she should bend in humility. In this difficult time when it seems that the Sharif’s are cleverly trying to isolate him, a retired Sindhi politician, who does not have good relations with Zardari, the other day was found defending him. His plea was that most of the people who dislike President Zardari for his past and present mistakes fail to recognise that he has a few plus points also – “he is showing flexibility on the issue of Governor’s rule, on letting majority form the government in Punjab, find some way to get the Sharif’s disqualification over-ruled, take a courageous stand against all the Jehadi forces, speak in favour of improving ties with India and still enjoys the support of the army and the West.”

But what he failed to mention, in spite of his bitter relations with Zardari for last many years, is that the President like Caesar is ambitious. His ambition to control Punjab through shenanigans of Taseer and his over-zealous supporters is creating a Brutus (read: Gilani). It’s high time that President Zardari should rise in his own long term political interest shunning away petty short-term gains and ask Gilani to announce that infamous November 3 order of Musharraf will be presented before the parliament for review immediately.

This will take the discussion back to the parliament where it actually belongs. And give an opportunity to Sharifs and lawyers movement to step back. But the problem is because President Zardari has reneged from his earlier promises; the other side may see it as a time gaining tactics. For this the forces which are working behind the scene for the compromise should stand guarantee that the November 3 order would be quashed minus the NRO. This would give the NRO security blanket to many politicians of PPP, PML (Q) and MQM, who are beneficiary of this order.

Those who oppose this order should get real. In this country amnesty has been given many times to the military dictators who have violated the constitution of the country; no action was taken against the supreme court judges who validate such coups (and that include the currest hero Ch Iftikhar); generals, who were responsible for breaking the country, creating number of private armies of Islamic militant organisations were buried or seen off with full military guard of honour; they were never tried for mutilating the constitution and killing elected prime minister in a fabricated case. Then why the politicians could not be given an amnesty particularly when their cases were not proved by the military government. And more so because the people of Pakistan have elected these politicians in spite of 9 years character assassination.

The country is facing serious insurgency and is likely to see more commotion as it would have to dismantle the militant organisations. It needs reconciliation of political forces and the army, as Ms Bhutto had envisaged.

As I said the first responsibility is always on an incumbent government, but the secondary onus is on the opposition and the leaders of lawyers’ movement. They have not shown any flexibility so far. While all democrats condemn the arrests of political workers by the government to foil the long march, there is also concern over lawyers demand to hold an indefinite sit-in on the Constitution Avenue. Such a sit-in would paralyse the Federal government and embassies, as all important offices are in the same area. The lawyers’ leader should think about the great economic and prestige loss to the country, if the government comes to a stand still. The entire democratic dispensation is at the risk of being trampled by the high boots. The lawyers’ leaders’ attitude would also be dubbed as irresponsible, if they do not accept the alternate venue for sit-in. There are many sensible people in the lawyers leadership they should not let the agent provocateurs and some hot heads lead them the brink. Today their head strong attitude is not going to do any good to the people of this miserable country.

Their demand for the restoration of judges has been partly met. Rest can be achieved by getting November 3 order quashed by the parliament if not fully may be partly. They should insist that this order should be taken to the parliament and reviewed, instead of making it a person specific demands. Ch. Iftikhar has become of symbol of defiance and is honoured for that. But he should also rise to the occasion and say that he would resign once he is reinstated and vindicated. The next senior most Judges then should be elevated as Chief Justice of Pakistan.

So all these options are available. Will President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, Sharif brothers and lawyers leaders save the poor people from the agony, should be come clear today. It’s not show of state or street power that will solve the impasse, it is humility, sagacity, flexibility and honest love of the people that would find the workable solution.

For the first time I hope that by the time this column is read it has become redundant and the impasse is resolved by the leadership showing maturity. But then if wishes were horse we the beggars would ride them. (

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