Who will head the govt of saviours in waiting?

Nusrat Javeed

Nusrat Javeed July 07, 2012

Most journalists had erroneously prepared their readers and viewers to watch do-or-die showdowns during the first sitting of the hastily summoned National Assembly session Friday. In hype-building excitement, they somehow forgot that a cheerful but feisty defender of Pakistan Peoples Party, Ms Fauzia Wahab, had died almost young and her untimely death clearly hinted reckless misconduct during her surgery. 

Notwithstanding the real cause of her death, the fact remains that a well-established parliamentary tradition demands that the first sitting of an assembly session should be adjourned that follows the death of its erstwhile member. Friday couldn’t be an exception and the house was adjourned after offering Fateha for the departed soul. The routine adjournment does not negate the reality that the Zardari-Raja government desperately feels as if caught in dire straits. The Supreme Court’s hunt for legislators with dual nationalities is not the issue; the government can live with it and even its main handlers of the parliamentary business are not very confident of getting that constitutional amendment passed which may furnish pardoning for such legislators. Far more crucial is the attempt to wrap the prime minister with a security blanket, hours before the Attorney General appears before the Supreme Court on July 12. He has been summoned on that date by the apex court to clearly tell as to how Raja Pervez Ashraf planned to proceed with writing of a letter to the Swiss government.

The Supreme Court wants the government of Pakistan to write the said letter with the specific intent of locating millions of dollars that President Zardari is alleged to have parked in various Swiss banks.  Yousaf Raza Gilani refused to budge on this point and the Supreme Court felt compelled to declare him disqualified for sitting in the National Assembly. He is also barred from contesting for a seat of any elected house for the next five years. His disappearance from the political scene as a convict does not address the mother of all questions, though. Asif Ali Zardari continues to enjoy power and privileges driven by his office and the alleged amount of dollars remains safely parked in Swiss accounts. Raja has no option but to write ‘the letter,’ if he is serious to save his skin and political career.  It is but obvious, however, that so far he has no desire to execute the Supreme Court’s direction. Yet to elude the humiliating sacking a la Gilani, his legal eagles have designed some hasty amendments in laws regulating the process of condemning persons for committing the contempt of court. An immunity of sorts, in short, is being sought for prime minister’s conduct in office through the help of majority that the ruling party and its allies continue to savour in parliament. The government can indeed get the proposed amendments passed without much ado. Will it help in the end? No one seems to have a convincing answer to this question.

I rather have it from impeccable sources that some very trusted aides of President Zardari have been anticipating that the Supreme Court might not let the issue of writing a letter to the Swiss government drag on beyond July 15, 2012. The idea of weaving a security blanket for the prime minister has to be executed before this date, therefore.  Even if it does not protect Raja Pervez Ashraf in the end, the passage of proposed amendments in contempt-related laws may give him some more months in office while the government lawyers sweat to defend the validity of these amendments before the Supreme Court, the ultimate interpreter of the laws and ‘constitutionally-guaranteed immunity’ for certain office holders.

Except the few hoping against hope types of the ruling party and its allies, everybody who is anybody in Islamabad has been eagerly waiting for surfacing of a caretaker government. It also is taken for granted that the said government will not hold the next election in constitutionally-fixed 90 days of its tenure. The anticipated government of “able, honest and patriotic technocrats” is being expected to rule at least for 2 years. During this period it is expected to think out long term policies to kick-start the process of economic recovery, besides retrieving the ‘stolen millions’ from the ‘corrupt and incompetent politicians’ via ‘ruthless accountability.’ Asad Umer, a corporate-wizard-turned-politician, has been promoted as the head of the anticipated government. But then some well-connected Pakistanis, who live and work in Washington, are also suggesting that Shaukat Tareen could head the government of saviors in waiting. But Thursday I was shocked to get it from someone very close to President Zardari that no one else but Hafiz Sheikh, the incumbent finance minister, is the one and only choice of the local and Pakistan-connected donors for heading the said government. It is a different matter that President Zardari had clearly conveyed it to various “messengers” that he would never agree to accept him in the proposed role, come what may. Asif Ali Zardari is equally adamant for not conceding the next election before March 2013. How will he get ‘there’? At least I fail to imagine a sane answer to this question.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2012.


Falcon | 10 years ago | Reply

Interesting. I believe extended care taker setup will have less to do with manipulating who comes afterwards and more with the premise that powers that-be don't expect Pakistan to get a competent govt. any time soon if the standard political process is followed through. So, intermittent fixes have to be made through these technocrat interim governments.

Mateen Salahuddin | 10 years ago | Reply

All this to stop Mian sb or for that matter, PMLN...from coming into power!! From 99 coup to NRO to mush safe exit deal...our mil estb has been playing a shameful role...objective is not to let Mian sb assume power, as it might be detrimental to the long-term interests of our generals' soul selling business...!!

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