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Monday, September 10, 2007

Soft Take-off, Hard Landing for Nawaz Sharif

(this is what i wrote for Desicritics - t)

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif landed in Islamabad early this morning. And less than five hours later he is being sent off to Saudi Arabia.

His flight PK-786 landed in Islamabad an hour behind schedule. For the next 90 minutes he refused to come out. When he did emerge he was taken to the lounge where entry and immigration procedures were undertaken, and then placed under protective custody.

At this moment he is on board a plane to Saudi Arabia, headed for Jeddah. The last time he negotiated his release from prison on charges of gross management and massive corruption, the Saudis offered him a royal guest status and he was placed in Suroor Palace. Where they put him up now remains to be seen. The plane has arrived and he has been transferred to an unkown location under heavy security.

President Musharraf's Administration, largely seen as embroiled in a fight for survival by some appears to have come to an understanding with the reinvigorated Supreme Court.

In a preemptive move the government has 'detained' hundreds of political leaders all over the country, placed all international airports on high alert, and imposed Section 144 (barring a gathering of more than 4 persons)

Here is the background information on the key players:

President Musharraf:
* Under pressure from the Supreme court to shed his uniform and hold only one office.
* Under US pressure to share power with former PM Benazir Bhutto.
* The US also expects Pakistani Administration to do more to curb terrorist activities in the FATA.
* Empowered by the NA to hold two offices (Chief of Army as well as the Presidency) till Nov 30, 2007.
* Maneuvering to have himself re-elected the President by the present Assemblies between September 15 and October 15, 2007.
* Has agreed to quit as Army Chief after his re-election.

Nawaz Sharif:
* Comes from a middle sized business background that shot into prominence as he gained political ascendancy as a protege of former dictator Zi(n)a ul Haq.
* Had two shots at power marred by gross corruption.
* After being returned with an overwhelming majority he wanted to consolidate all powers in his hands and tried to dismiss interfere with the same Supreme Court that threw him a lifeline recently, tried to dismiss army chiefs, once successfully, once it cost him his post, introduced draconian measures in the NA, and had utter disregard for the democratic norms he now espouses.
* In April 2000, Nawaz was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
* Alleged to have robbed the country blind.
* Alleged to have opponents murdered through family and friends.
* In December 2000, he had Rafiq Hariri (assassinated, billionaire President of Lebanon) negotiate his release from prison with then Crown Prince Abdulla, now King Abdulla's blessings.)
* He denied vociferously this agreement for seven years. Only in the last few days after the GoP presented a copy in the Supreme Court he reluctantly came out. But even then he was tentative and not forthright.
* Made belated efforts from London to mend fences with the US Administration, which sees him with suspicion for his close links with the religious right in Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto:
* Daughter of charismatic Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, life chairperson of Pakistan Peoples Party.
* Twice held the office of Prime Minister. Dismissed for extra-judicial killings of opponents and massive corruption and mismanagement.
* In self imposed exile since 1998.
* Has been visiting the US every years since, meeting with think-tanks and government officials. Sharp political operative.
* Has finally managed to get the US Administration's blessings. Hence the US pressure on Musharraf to share power with her.
* Allegedly 'separated' from husband Asif (Mr. 15%) Zardari reportedly seriously ill in NYC after angioplasty.

MMA (Muttahida Mujlis e Amal)
* An umbrella organisation of right wing parties that sits in the opposition federally and is in power sharing in two provinces.
* Qazi Husain Ahmed, Amir (Chief) of Jamaat e Islami is vociferously anti US. His two sons live in the US and are citizens of US.
* Maulana Fazlur Rehman (Maulana Diesel) is the hand-picked leader of Opposition in the National Assembly. Bhutto's PPP is the biggest opposition party there, though.

Pakistan Muslim League (Q)
* Headed by Ch. SHujaat Hussain the scion of the Chaudhries of Gujrat.
* PML (Q) is the King's Party.
* Any 'deal' with Nawaz Sharif is a death knell for it.
* Has under its umbrella assorted power hungry and corrupt politicians.
* Opposed PML(N) and is willing to cut a deal with Bhutto's PPP

Muttahida Quomi Movement
* Led by Altaf Hussain, another leader in self imposed exile in London.
* Has a secured vote bank in urban Sind and the most organised and disciplined cadre outside of the Army.
* Cherishes king-maker's role in Pakistani Politics. Whether it is Benazir's PPP or Sharif's PML, they come begging at sometime for his vote-support.
* Presently allied with Musharraf.


The only thing that can change the status quo in Pakistan is if the people come out on the streets. This is not happening presently.

While Condaleeza Rice and other White House and State Department Officials routinely visit Islamabad, in a unprecedented visit Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz advised Nawaz Sharif in a press conference on Sep 7, to abide by the 'agreement'.

Nawaz Sharif took another U turn and said that agreement was for five years not ten! He took a calculated gamble to return to Pakistan.

The effective power remains with the Army and its partners. The Opposition plays a noisy and out of tune flute.

The most intriguing and involved factor in Pakistani politics is the increasingly visible ISI's political wing. They have dossiers on every politician and media personality. And they have no qualms in stepping on their toes when it effects what defense analyst Ayesha Siddiqua calls milbus.

This is what i wrote earlier in Need to Develop a Vision for Coexistence

The politician led kakistocracy and the Army led k(h)akistocracy both have failed to address the core problems afflicting the country – runaway population growth, poverty, corruption, mismanagement, lack of basic health care, unavailability of basic necessities such as drinking water, electricity, decaying infrastructure and lack of trust in institutions.

Sane elements in the military see the bad influence of long term civilian rule affecting Army morale and efficiency. Some politicians privately also agree to the necessity of the Army’s role in curbing and checking the violent forces unleashed in the country.

A Pakistani version of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is needed here to re-establish trust and to create a breathing room for the democratic traditions to take root.

There is a need for the Army and the politicians to come to an understanding on some power sharing formulae. A reinvigorated National Security Council moderated by a Constitutional Court along Turkish lines can allay the fears of both the Army and the Politicians.


Blogger Hira said...

if everything would have been perfect...tau baat hi kia thi??

September 10, 2007 12:14 PM  

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