Influential world powers thought to enjoy good relations with the Pakistani military hierarchy as well as its political elite are said to be playing a role in ensuring the smooth transfer of power from one civilian setup to another.
As arch political rivals in Pakistan continue to build a brick-by-brick consensus on what seems to be the possibility of the first ever normal transition in the country’s history, top leaders from both sides told The Express Tribune that the developments were not taking place in isolation.
Overseas backers of the fragile democracy in Pakistan, they said, were also in the game with their influence and goodwill with the country’s powerful military and wrangling political groupings.
The US, Britain, Turkey, the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are involved with major political parties in Pakistan to build on what has so far been achieved on the democratic front.
Last month, both the governing Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) set aside hostilities to choose a new chief election commissioner (CEC) in the first apparent step towards transition.
The fresh appointment was made under the framework of the 20th Constitutional Amendment, which both parties passed in parliament earlier in the year.
The Amendment envisages a mechanism for bringing in an interim setup through consultations between the prime minister and the opposition leader in the National Assembly.
Also this July, negotiators from the PPP and the PML-N exchanged key proposals aimed at bringing in the interim setup to supervise fresh parliamentary elections.
Officials in both groups said the appointment of a new CEC and the informal talks on installing a caretaker government was being closely monitored across the world from Riyadh to Washington.
“Almost everybody in the key world capitals is on board on what would be the shape of future administration in Pakistan. All want a democratic system to continue in Pakistan. Americans are especially keen and will like to see things rolling ahead,” said a PPP leader.
There have also been reports in the international media that the administration in Washington would not like to see any trouble in Islamabad while they prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan.
In pursuance of this American desire, the United Kingdom (UK), Saudi Arabia, UAE and Turkey are also working closely with Pakistani leaders making sure not to go overboard and spoil what has so far been a hard-earned democratic dispensation.
Last month, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan were in London supposedly on private tours. Insiders, however, said the two party leaders held a crucial meeting with administration officials there.
Immediately after returning from London, Nisar announced to hold negotiations with fellow leaders of opposition parties on choosing a caretaker government.
Furthermore, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s first overseas trip as the prime minister was to Saudi Arabia last month, where he held a crucial meeting with King Abdullah.
King Abdullah enjoys influence over all Pakistani leaders and is equally respected by the military hierarchy.
President Asif Ali Zardari, according to his associates, will also have a one-on-one meeting with the king when he goes to Saudi Arabia later to attend a conference of Muslim leaders.
The PML-N has said that Nawaz is also flying to Saudi Arabia and would be King Abdullah’s guest for the last 10 days of Ramazan.
PML-N Information Secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan said that while it was routine for Nawaz and his family to spend the last 10 days of Ramazan in Saudi Arabia, there were also possibilities of some meetings.
Other PML-N officials said it was Nawaz who first sought guarantees from international players on the transfer of power negotiations with President Zardari, whom he called a man of less integrity.
But, they added, the international players themselves were more proactive in the end.
The transition talks, according to leaders on both sides, might gain momentum from the first week of next month.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2012.