Between the judiciary, government, army, and others in the news these days, there are some fascinating examples on how to walk a tightrope. Observe the memogate proceedings. While the army and judiciary continue to emphasise the need to investigate the anonymously authored paper that saw Mr Hussain Haqqani lose his job, the government nicely balances out the pressure on the President by claiming immunity. The Supreme Court responds with a firm reminder, that this immunity may only be claimed if so ratified by the Supreme Court, who has not yet been sent any such request. The PML-N gleefully chimes in as the bacha jumhura, only too happy to help increase pressure on the government. Mansoor Ijaz, whose accusations against Mr Haqqani cost the latter dearly, also accuses General Pasha, for supposedly having tried to lobby support among the Gulf States to oust the civilian setup.
With no appetite for another era of military rule, the public continues to display a tremendous amount of resilience in the face of crisis after crisis, to still continue to wait for the general elections. Traditional “quick-fixes” will not be available this time, to those unhappy with the state of affairs. As there is a consensus between all institutions that, at least a façade of, democratic governance must at all times be maintained, attention has shifted to the 2013 elections. With the screws being tightened on the government – memogate, NRO judgement, and presidential immunity application – these elections are now commonly being referred to as the 2012 general elections. October 2012, specifically!
Political parties have begun campaigning, television channels have formed election cells to plan their coverage, even the President in his latest interview hinted that elections will, indeed, be held later this year. All indications that the desire for a democratically elected government to complete a full term, albeit with elections as soon as legally possible and, perhaps, a new alliance in power after them, is translating into reality.
Similarly, the difficult Pakistan-US relationship that the Foreign Office is having to navigate, is similar to attempting to walk with a giant without getting crushed. Although Pakistan is the largest recipient of US military assistance, its interests as defined by the necessity of the Iranian gas pipeline to fulfil its energy shortages as soon as possible and a friendly (even submissive) Afghanistan, among others, do not appear to be in sync with the USA’s interests in the region. While we continue to remain allies in the war on terror, NATO supplies are as yet suspended and Pakistan continues to complain of less-than-full payment for losses borne in the war.
With pundits winking and pointing to January 10, the last date of implementation of the NRO verdict, as the beginning of the end for the PPP-led government, this is a fairly exaggerated prediction. There is no doubt that from now until the elections, the pressure on the civilian setup will only increase, to keep them ‘committed’ to the idea. Come election time, with the PPP in power in the Senate, as is likely to happen according to present-day numbers, will a PPP-led majority in Parliament be acceptable for a second term? No one party will win the election by a mandate heavy enough to form the government on its own. The result will be a desperate scramble to form alliances and establish a majority.
While we continue to witness several fine balancing acts, negotiating various tightropes, let us take a minute to appreciate that this signifies something going right. There have been many opportunities in the last few months for our delicate democratic setup to be shown the door. It is a combination of good fortune, sharp survival instincts and public pressure that has kept the system going. Here’s hoping for just a few months more, just enough for us to reach the other end of the tightrope. Just a few months more…….without the tightrope snapping and all the actors plunging to the ground.
Email: rnizami@nawaiwaqt.com.pk