Coalition concerns

Balance to be found between requirements of coalition and question of offering people the government they voted.

Editorial December 27, 2010

At the PPP Central Executive Committee meeting in Naudero, President Asif Ali Zardari has made it clear how much significance he attaches to the need to retain allies. In the wake of the JUI-F’s angry exit from the coalition and the MQM’s threat to follow suit, the President has imposed a gag order on PPP legislators, urging them not to make provocative statements. The move comes as both parties consider their future ties with the PPP. In some ways, at least the order makes sense. Running a coalition government is always a task that involves good sense and tact and the attack launched on the MQM recently by the Sindh home minister, Zulfiqar Ali Mirza, triggering the latest crisis, was obviously unwise. Some degree of restraint is definitely required because nothing is achieved when elected representatives wash their dirty linen in public.

Perhaps the president’s warning can persuade PPP members to more carefully consider what they are saying and what impact it could have. It is also sensible to work out internal differences through calm dialogue, rather than public airing them. This indeed needs to be made clear to all lawmakers.

But at the same time, a balance needs to be found between the requirements of coalition government and the question of offering people the kind of government they voted for. Too many compromises make the matter of sticking to principal rather hard, and this disillusions people. The key purpose of government is to offer leadership to people, to solve their problems and set a direction for the future. Too great a focus on pleasing coalition partners can only detract from this. In view of some of the comments we have heard from government members and the ugly squabble between ministers which led to the dismissal from the cabinet of the JUI-F’s Azam Swati, a little discipline would do no harm. Seeing more deeds and fewer words would do us all a great deal of good. The president’s attempts to control damage therefore seem wise under the prevailing circumstances. We need somehow to create greater political stability in order to move forward. Preventing lawmakers from expressing controversial opinions without obtaining approval from the party high command could help achieve this and lay the ground for more successful governance in the future.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2010.


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