Pakistan hurtles towards 2012 polls

By AFP
Published: January 22, 2012
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Analysts say 2012 is the election year. PHOTO: SANA/ FILE

Analysts say 2012 is the election year. PHOTO: SANA/ FILE

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government has won temporary respite in its bid to cling onto office but early polls are inevitable as the army and judiciary plot to bring down the unpopular president, analysts say.

The power struggle between Asif Ali Zardari’s government on the one hand and the courts and military on the other is by any standards toxic – even in a nuclear-armed country as perennially on the brink of crisis as Pakistan.

No elected government in the history of the country has survived a full term in office and almost from inception the daggers have been drawn for the Pakistan Peoples Party administration.

Yet Zardari has survived nearly four years through nous and cunning. Polls in 2012 may satisfy an army desperate to see the back of Zardari but his prime minister has already become the longest-serving civilian premier in Pakistan.

“2012 is election year,” says political analyst and author Imtiaz Gul, regardless of whether Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani survives contempt proceedings initiated by the Supreme Court.

“All political parties want early elections,” said Gul.

“There is economic crisis and social instability and the government will therefore see early elections as the only way out.”

The Supreme Court judges demanding that Zardari be reinvestigated for graft in Switzerland could ultimately decide to convict Gilani of contempt, sentence him to jail and disqualify him – as well as Zardari – from office.

The president is also under pressure from a judicial investigation into a secretive memo seeking to overhaul the military leadership after the army was humiliated by a covert American operation on May 2 that killed Osama bin Laden.

But the court’s decision to adjourn until February 1 has bought the government at least two weeks’ reprieve after Gilani was summoned to face contempt charges on Thursday.

Opinion is divided on whether the Supreme Court was victorious in forcing the government to accept its authority or whether the prime minister emerged triumphant by standing his ground and refusing to apologise.

Gilani faced down a demand to ask Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against Zardari by insisting that the president has full immunity, but the prime minister has gone out of his way to show deference to the courts.

“We respect the judiciary and their mandate and we will respect whatever courts decide in this regard,” Gilani told reporters on Friday.

“The crisis has been averted – for now,” said Pakistan’s well-regarded English broadsheet Dawn.

“Both Zardari and Gilani have kept their nerve,” Ayaz Amir, a lawmaker for the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N party, wrote in The News, before comparing Zardari favourably to much-lauded prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

“Zardari… is a far better politician than him. Bhutto had a knack for making enemies. Zardari has a knack for making friends and keeping them on his side,” Amir wrote.

Analysts are divided on whether the court will accept the government’s position on immunity, force its hand or whether a compromise can be reached in the wording of a letter written to the Swiss authorities.

Most believe a solution can be found, saving Gilani the ignominy of being convicted for contempt.

Pakistan has been under military dictatorships for about half its history since independence in 1947, with civilian leaders thrown out in three coups.

But while the military – angry with government ineptitude and still reeling from the Bin Laden fiasco – appears to have decided Zardari has to go, observers say there is no suggestion of another coup in the offing.

Instead the powerful military seems content to engineer elections by building pressure on the government from behind the scenes and watch the rise of political contender Imran Khan, rumoured to be the army’s choice.

What remains to be seen is how long the government can survive, under what circumstances and when it will be finally forced to call elections which are not due until the beginning of 2013.

Few believe the Supreme Court, government or military want elections before April’s expected completion of electoral roll reform that offers the prospect of significantly cleaner polls.

Pakistan’s blazing summer starts early and elections have never been held during the hottest months, making September or October the most likely date.

Analyst AH Nayyar said the government was determined to survive until Senate elections in March in a bid to retain its majority and hold out for as long as possible.

But regardless of elections, there is little doubt that the current government is paralysed, offering nothing in the face of crippling energy cuts and inflation, not to mention the damaged US alliance in Afghanistan.

“We are already in the middle of a coup as the government is not being allowed to function,” said military analyst Ayesha Siddiqa.

“I call it a judiciary-cum-media coup.”

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Reader Comments (21)

  • captaincookespeersahib
    Jan 22, 2012 - 12:06PM

    And the new Prime minister of Pakistan….Imran KHAN!

    Imran Khan Zindabad, PTI Zindabaad, Pakistan Zindabaad.

    Recommend

  • Mirza
    Jan 22, 2012 - 12:17PM

    With Gen. Mush’s electoral lists gone which were prepared for King’s Party, the coalition govt would emerge with a bigger mandate. All coalition parties have deep roots and have not emerged overnight. They have been there for decades and passed the tests of time. As soon as the new lists are ready the govt should announce the election dates under the current SC, so the opponents have no room for objection.

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  • antanu g
    Jan 22, 2012 - 12:36PM

    @Mirza:
    why are you so much interestef in maintaining status quo in pakistan? my suggestion….you dont want things to improve in pakistan…am i right?

    Recommend

  • Mirza
    Jan 22, 2012 - 12:43PM

    @antanu g:
    I don’t want anything, it would be the will of the people to decide the future of the country. I am only making my prediction based upon the history and educated guess. There would not be any status quo if the elected govts are allowed to work freely and complete the terms. No matter who is elected hopefully both the army and SC would be less hostile after the people’s mandate. Let democracy work its way out and evolve into a progressive Pakistan.
    Regards,
    Mirza

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  • John B
    Jan 22, 2012 - 1:19PM

    PAK people are riding high on Imran Khan fever but I wonder how a new entrant in politics with so many old faces who jumped fences will manage a new system of government without a serious team and manifesto.

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  • Jan 22, 2012 - 1:26PM

    Seats in NA, post election 2012 scenario: PML Q 105+ seats, PTI 18 seats, PPP 70+ PML N 51 seats, MQM 22 seats, JUI 16 seats, JI, 6, PML F 9, ANP 21

    and the Gov. party will be again PPP, MQM and PML Q

    Recommend

  • sat goel
    Jan 22, 2012 - 1:37PM

    I am a Rawalpindi born Indian eighty years of age. I want Pakistan to prosper and take its place in the world affairs. However, I have felt that the institutions such as executive, army, legislature and even the judiciary have failed the nation at various times. Sitting far away, I think that the army is not answerable to any one in the country. This situation is not good for any nation for a long time. I know that politicians have not shown themselves in good light as well.

    Pakistanis can decide what type of rule they want. If they want military to rule, they should say so and be prepared for the same. But a facade of democracy and real rule of army is bad for all.

    I pray for the well being of all in the world including Pakistanis and hope that Almighty Allah will help Pakistanis to decide their destiny.

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  • blithe
    Jan 22, 2012 - 1:40PM

    @captaincookespeersahib:
    haha – what a joke!

    The Kaptaan has been caought out.
    The only reovolutions happening are due to the Rolls Royce engines on Jehangir Tareen jet plane that IK is using these days….

    Recommend

  • Babar
    Jan 22, 2012 - 1:54PM

    Awam Baywaqoof & Leader Bayzameer .. sorry for using Urdu in roman, but couldn’t find any better replacements in Englinsh. What differene any election will make when people are un-educated and are unaware of their basic rights. Where people vote for a plate of Biryani, I am sorry elections will not bring any change, just more corruption by slightly different faces.

    Recommend

  • Usman
    Jan 22, 2012 - 2:13PM

    Please, we want elections. The people of Pakistan have suffered enough, this Govt. has no monopoly on democracy. Elections (early or scheduled) are part of a democracy, they are in fact essential. India had more than 4 elections in 2 years, it did not threaten their democracy?

    Recommend

  • aman ullah
    Jan 22, 2012 - 2:16PM

    Constitutional democratic status quo is blessing. It assures stable governments and sustainable policies. Any unconstitutional change will be detrimental for Pakistan. Pakistan Army and Judiciary must restrain as in a civil society they are not elements of governmental change. In a constitutional democracy, a government can only be replace by people or parliament. Pakistan is in transition of a controlled democracy to real democracy. Pakistanis have achieved an independent judiciary, free media and relatively an emerging civil society. Now they have to struggle for good parliamentarians and a competent fair cabinet.Recommend

  • Cheema
    Jan 22, 2012 - 5:47PM

    People of Pakistan choosing PPP and PMLN to rule are now suffering. People are not to blame anyone else but themselves. I hope this time people will vote for either APML or PTI, if they want the country to prosper.

    Recommend

  • Jan 22, 2012 - 6:00PM

    Yes indeed, early polls is the need of the hour and the day.

    No more five years tenure for the premier and his cabinet. All they do is prepare deficit fiscal budgets with large expenses for the oversized and bloated cabinet ministers. These ministers are vacuous and inert all day long. Look at the photo of the Sindh Assembly published a few days ago: only twenty or twenty five percent members were present.

    So to get rid of expenses and coruption in a large measure, a constitutional amendment must be passed. This will limit the PM’s tenure to four years the number of cabinet ministers to fifteen, maximum, with fifteen assistants. No special assistants, junior or state ministers or advisors.

    No doubt Mr. Gillani is the longest surviving PM in our history. With special thanx to the patience shown by the army, which is a blessing and for biting off more than it could chew. Salams to Pakistan

    Recommend

  • John
    Jan 22, 2012 - 6:24PM

    I think it is a well balanced article but when you in middle of it, you tend to loose the bigger picture. Some of my thoughts:

    (i) About economy, global economy was doing best for a decade till 2007 or 2008, after that it had been faltering. Pakistan cannt be any excption. It is not extra ordinary corruption or mismanagement, a very very big part is that Pakistan is not located in another planet.

    (ii) Due to lack of economic growth and high inflation (again nothing specific to Pakistan), common people are suffering and irritated with Government. Only specific and relevent cause could be disproportionate defence spending. I suggest, while hardware etc. are imported and those cannot be curtailed, but pay and perks, again like all over the world, be very similar to civilians.

    (iii) It also looks present government has suddenly become disfunctional. I think it is statistically correct. In all the 65 yrs of history, about half the time, civilian governments had functioned, it either did not function four years at all or if it did, it always appeared more in efficienct, corrupt,mis managed, etc etc…

    (v( Could it be that the govrenment start becoming assertive after 4 yrs or get a knack of the state and its polity..so it can no longer be a force to be ignored in decision making.

    Recommend

  • dr j tipu
    Jan 22, 2012 - 6:34PM

    my vote for IK>…………the only honest leader amongst all Recommend

  • riz
    Jan 22, 2012 - 7:18PM

    WHO WILL YOU VOTE??

    NAWAZ SHARIF
    ASIF ZARDARI
    IMRAN KHAN

    consider; vision, capabilities & character before any decision in country’s interest.

    Recommend

  • Jan 22, 2012 - 8:06PM

    This is the fundamental question in Pakistan’s politics. Why daggers are drawn as soon as a civil government is in place.Blame is often put on the Army. But is it so.Or is it a group of conservative elements who do not accept civilian rule.

    Recommend

  • SM
    Jan 22, 2012 - 9:18PM

    With no gas, CNG, gasoline, electricity, an inoperative Pakistan Railways and PIA, the PPP government has the nerve to say things are not that bad… guess where our votes ought to go?

    Recommend

  • Syed
    Jan 24, 2012 - 1:15AM

    @SM: and Zardari said in his recent speech – 80% of the manifesto has been implemented. Well if this is true – People like “Mirza” shouldn’t be flying back to Pakistan?

    It is very easy to comment/predict and blame while sitting outside of the country rather than to become a proud Pakistan by living a dignified life in Pakistan and fulfilling responsibilities as a honest citizen :)

    Recommend

  • France
    Jan 25, 2012 - 5:55PM

    Gilani, the longest-serving civilian premier in Pakistan ? And ZAB, from 14 August 1973 to 5 July 1977, it’s more than Gilani

    Recommend

  • Adnan Yousaf
    Mar 20, 2012 - 10:37AM

    People will vote PML (N) in general elections.Imran khan can not bring change and Imran’s sonami has gone with General Pasha.General Pasha wanted that PML (N) vote bank decrease by Sonami Khan.New provinces want only those people who want to become C.M of that provinces.

    Recommend

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