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Friday, May 16, 2008

Baithak Desi May 15: Ikram Sehgal, Ejaz Haider, Faiz Shakir, Headlines, Cartoon

In my article "A pocketful of miracles" on Feb 21, 2008, I had written: "PPP is in a position to cobble a national alliance in the Centre with (a very willing) MQM, ANP, Balochistan nationalist parties and some independents. PML (Q) supporting PPP in Punjab can make a coalition governmentt, keeping the PML (N), the largest party in the province, out in the cold. While PPP can form a government of its own in Sindh, it will do so with MQM. With a coalition also in Balochistan, PPP can be part of ANP's forming the government in NWFP. Including PML (Q) will give PPP the government in Punjab (and also additional comfort for staying in power in the Centre). This is a better situation than in 1972 when PPP was not in the governments of NWFP and Balochistan."

Magnanimity is often taken to be a sign of weakness. Asif Zardari's effort for genuine national reconciliation led to a perception that Mian Nawaz Sharif was the indispensable "king-maker" without whom the government could not function. Worse, and unfortunately, the PML-N started to believe this themselves. For the PPP-led federal government to survive in the 342-member National Assembly, it needs at least 172 MNAs. With 125 MNAs of its own and supported by the MQM's 25, the ANP's 13, the JUI (F)'s 6 and 8 from FATA, theoretically the "restructured" Coalition (with the PML-N playing a brooding King Lear) will have a tally of 177. And that is not counting independents and possible turncoats! The dynamics dictate that even without the support of the solid bloc of the PML-N's 90 seats (or even the more fragile PML-Q), the PPP-led coalition can still govern, and govern well. Ikram Sehgal

As matters stand, both parties have another month to take their respective positions. Chances are the PPP will try and push the constitutional package through as quickly as it can and see how the PMLN reacts to it. If the reaction is positive, everyone will gain; if not, we will have to fasten the seatbelts for rough weather. Summer of finite choices —Ejaz Haider

AWARDS: Faiz Shakir wins Hillman best blog prize


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