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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Of empty-handed returns and deposed CJs
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Tahir Hasan Khan
Karachi : I wrote in last week’s column that the expectations with Prime Minister, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani’s visit to America were high. Not only the people but also the media, politicians, economic experts as well as the business community were hopeful that this visit will bring some relief for the country.However, I had also mentioned that the PM will not only come back with the promises of the superpower but also some strict conditions on heavy costs. It is easy for the nation to foresee that the country will have to pay heavily for this particular visit. The PM is already paying for it. He has come under fire from every corner, in and outside the country. The reputation of the government was put at stake and questions have been raised as why this visit was planned without the United States’ official invitation and why the government were projecting this visit as ‘very important’ for Pakistan.The only success that stemmed from this visit was the international conference held on the Thar coal project. Chief Minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah especially went to Washington with experts to bring in investors for this project, which is the only hope of this government to generate electricity to fulfil the power requirement of the country. More than 20 Pakistani and international firms and investors attended the conference and showed interest in this project. Shah will disclose as to the role Sindh and Pakistan will play in this conference. Though the government claims that the PM’s visit was quite successful, reports coming in from the media imply otherwise. My opinion is different and I think the criticism on Gilani regarding his US visit is unnecessary as it was neither official nor on the superpower’s invitation. The ground situation in Pakistan was also not suitable for this visit, neither was it necessary to visit at a stage when the country was facing an economic as well as a political crisis — particularly the aggravating situation in FATA and other parts of the NWFP.Talibanisation is growing in the Pakhtoon areas. The issue of the control of the ISI raised unexpectedly also damaged the PM visit. On political grounds, the PM’s visit was costly for the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and its credibility. It also provided an opportunity to the party’s opponents to re-organise their positions that were lost in the February elections. President Pervez Musharraf and his allies have been in full gear and are firing their guns now shifted towards the PPP from the Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N) and Nawaz Sharif. Q-League leaders, Chaudhry Shujaat and Mushahid Hussain started a campaign against the government from Karachi last week. They had met with jailed party leaders as well as with the political leadership Pir Pagara, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi and others and motivated the depressed party leaders and workers in Sindh. Newly born Awami Muslim League (AML) chief and strong supporter of Musharraf, Shaikh Rashid also started political activities from Karachi and visited the city twice for motivation and mobilisation of the pro-Musharraf allies. Meanwhile, the reception of the deposed chief justice Chaudhry Iftikhar in Karachi indicated that the anti-Musharaf forces are loosing their strength. The participation of lawyers as well as the civil society was poor as compared to May 12, 2007 visit when the city was shut down. Hundreds of thousands were on the street to welcome the deposed CJ and more then 50 were killed due to violence. The Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) was a part of the previous government and party was blamed on this killing. It is still a part of the government with the PPP but not a single incident of firing and killing was witnessed on the arrival of deposed CJ. However, the MQM’s City Nazim, Mustafa Kamal invited Pervez Musharaf for the inauguration of the North Karachi flyover just to show his loyalty with the ex-army chief who brought the MQM in the main political stream of the country and provided them with an opportunity to rule and remove their previous image. The MQM circles claim that as long as Pervez Musharraf is in the presidency the party will remain a part of government with the PPP. The main ally for the PPP, Mian Nawaz Sharif also threatened that he will hold final round of talk with Asif Zardari regarding the deposed judges and other issues. The second political ally of the PPP, the ANP is engaged in dealing with the insurgency in the NWFP. Attacks of NATO forces in FATA and Pashtoon areas in the NWFP is a serious issue for this government while the operation to curb Taliban activities will create more problems for the present set up. Pakistan has no leader of Benazir’s stature. The vision and stature of Yousuf Raza Gilani cannot equal to that of the late PPP chairperson. The Saraiki leader from Multan would have been either a Speaker of the national assembly or a federal minister if Benazir Bhutto was alive. This situation requires a strong government with a leader of vision with commanding position, who has the capability to deal with the situation in and outside the country. This is a difficult time for the country and being a leader of an elected majority party, it is the responsibility of the PPP Co-chairman, Asif Zardari to handle this situation. Benazir Bhutto nominated him as her replacement as party chief. He knew her vision and after her death, Zardari’s stature is not less than Benazir’s.

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