Sunday, August 24, 2008
Pakistan's Government Is On The Brink Of Collapse
I've reported before on these pages about the conflict between the two ruling parties in Pakistan's coalition government now that they've gotten the one thing they agreed on - Musharraf's ouster.
The conflict between the two sides has intensified if anything over the core issues of reinstating judges fired by Musharraf and picking Musharraf's successor to the presidency, with ex-Pakistani PM Nawak Sharif threatening to pull his Pakistan Muslim League(PML-N) out of the government.
Back in March, when the PPP and the PML-n formed their coalition government, the two parties both promised to restore the 60 judges, including chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry within one month, and it was a major campaign issue.
Nawaz Sharif, and his conservative Islamist Pakistan Muslim League-N, want them all restored immediately. The PPP, which has a slight majority (although not enough to govern by itself)wants a constitutional mechanism which would allow them to pick and choose which judges were reinstated and which were removed. Part of that has to do with the PPP's leader, Asif Zardari, because Chaudhry opposed the legislation Musharraf forced through at our State Department's insistence granting Zardari and his wife Benazhir Bhutto amnesty on pending corruption charges and paved the way for their return to Pakistan. The last thing Zardari wants is Chaudhry back on the bench...he might just try to undo the amnesty.
Actually, both Zardari and Sharif are suspected of stealing millions while they were in office.
Another problem with reinstating Chaudhry is the fact that the job of chief justice is now held by Abdul Hamid Dogar, a political crony of Zardari who comes as from Sindh Province, which is the political base of Zardari and the PPP.
The contest for the presidency is another problem issue - both Sharif and the PPP's de facto party head Asif Ali Zardari want the job, and the PPP has already endorsed Zardari for the office.
Nawak Sharif will meet with his Muslim League -N Party tomorrow to decide whether to leave the government.
From an American standpoint,neither Sharif of Zardari, who's orientation could best be described as Lefist-Kleptocrat are very likely to be what the current occupant of the White House would term as 'strong allies in the war on terror.'
Our main concern is obviously who's minding the store on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal while the country falls apart. On that score Musharraf was dependable at least.