Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pakistan: The Infighting Has Already Started

As I predicted, the Pakistan People's Party(PPP) and The Pakistan Muslim League(PML-N) are already fighting for power now that Musharraf has resigned and is on the way out.

The PPP, run by Benazhir Bhutto's widower Asif Zardari is essentially a gang of Leftist kleptocrats, while the PML-N, run by ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif is a conservative Islamist party. The two sides became partners in Pakistan's ruling coalition out of necessity because neither had enough of a majority in parliament to rule outright, and one of the only things they agreed on was getting rid of Pervez Musharraf. Now that Musharraf is gone, the animosity between the two sides is out in the open again.

The two immediate issues the two sides are contesting have to do with reinstating judges Musharraf removed from the bench and who assumes Musharraf's position as president.

The judges are a fairly sticky issue.

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 talking point during the parliamentary campaign.

Nawaz Sharif, and his Pakistan Muslim League-N, wanted them all restored immediately and Sharif threatened to leave the coalition if they weren't all restored within 24 hours..

The PPP, which has a slight majority ( although not enough to govern by itself)had a more 'nuanced' position on the matter. They favored 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 little problem is the fact that the job of chief justice is now held by Abdul Hamid Dogar, a political ally of Zardari who comes as from Sindh Province, which is the political base of Zardari and the PPP.

Who fills the office of president is another point of contention. The president is elected by the parliament, not by popular vote and according to what passes for Pakistan's constitution, it has to be done within thirty days. The current prime minister is the PPP's Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, and he's in office because the PPP and the PML-N agreed on him assuming the position as part of the deal that created the ruling coalition government. The presidency will be a different matter.Both Zardari and Sharif want the job filled by themselves or someone from their party they can control, and Zardari has even talked about putting a woman in the presidency, either his sister Faryal Talpur or the PPP speaker of the Lower Assembly Fehmida Mirza.

As you can imagine, the idea of a woman president doesn't sit well with the Islamist PML-N, aside from the fact that Sharif wants the job.

Now that Musharraf is gone, Zardari and Sharif can be expected to slug it out over the spoils...and the political positions and ambitions of the two couldn't be more opposed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

last evening on iba news, they were interviewing a dr. isaac kfir from some university in jerusalem. they were asking him about the situation in pakistan. during one of the answers he referred to the currant occupant of the white house as being radioactive.
i wonder if that means the US screwed this situation up enough, as is, and no one wants to be a part of the so-called fallout.
no pun intended.