Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Govt's deal with PPP

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based think tank “National Issues”

Govt’s Deal with PPP

According to the prevalent rumor President Musharraf has finally cut a power sharing deal with the PPP. Yes I mean BBs PPP and not Sherpao’s which owns the most valuable political brand, at least officially. According to the rumored deal, PPP will get the Sind government but will have to accommodate MQM. It will not get anything in Punjab but a bigger sweetener would be a few federal ministries where it would work with the Q League. To consummate the deal, elections might be held before time and as a gesture of goodwill PPPs jailed leader has been freed on bail. Sounds like a win win situation for both the parties; Musharraf will finally get the legitimacy it wants which has evaded him, and PPP the political power, but the situation might not be that simple. Revelations of the deal by the government officials and denials by the PPP leaders suggest than there might be many a slips between the cup and the lips.

The first and the foremost bone of contention is the President’s uniform. Gen. Musharraf will not relinquish his military post ever voluntarily and the PPP would risk its decades of struggle by accepting a uniformed president. Then partnership with the MQM in Sind might not be easy. MQM has been enjoying near absolute power during the current setup and would not give it up easily. In Punjab, which was once the power base of the PPP and still enjoys appreciable influence; it cannot afford to lose while being branded as a Generals ally. MMA is still facing tough questions for dealing with the General over the 17th amendment and might not be able to shed the doubt on its reputation despite working hard to be seen as a legitimate opposition. Musharraf's allies in Punjab are well entrenched and would resist any development that can risk their outright supremacy. Even in the centre working with the people who accuse PPP of their father’s murder would create problems as would the distribution of ministries. To keep its allies Musharraf had to create a world record number of ministries and one wonders how far he can go? No wonder for the last four years despite continuous negotiations and foreign encouragement, the two parties have not been able to work out a deal.

Surprisingly the news of this deal is being leaked by different responsible government officials like the Sind CM and the Federal Information Minister suggesting that they might be more in need of it. It is not the first time such a deal is being mentioned but interestingly during all this exercise cases against BB and her husband are being followed and new ones registered. No effort is being spared locally and internationally to malign the couple and the President categorically ruled out any possibility of its return. So we see that there are no evident CBMs and the chances of reaching a deal without ground work are always questionable.

President’s major political ally the PML (Q) and its leaders have repeatedly shown their readiness and skills to disrupt efforts to attract more allies as this might dilute their powers. All the new allies whether the MQM or the Millat Party complain of sabotage by its partners. This policy created many forward blocks of disgruntled elements which were finally managed by the President personally. Despite the apparent strength of PML (Q) in the parliament it is a known fact that it exists only due to Gen Musharraf. Would such a party accommodate PPP in Punjab which it considers its strength or MQM would be highly unlikely. We are already witnessing the effects of attempting to accommodate the MQM in Punjab. This has resulted in mutual media war and allegations more appropriate to adversaries than allies. Considering all these facts one is forced to think that Gen Musharraf might be playing his old game in which he is very good, flirt but don’t marry. The political people and forces he does not consider desirable he does attract and negotiate and then keeps on negotiating. He has been doing this to the PPP for the last more than four years along with Tahir Qadri, Imran and many others. The thought of this prospect might be easing the life of many current government officials.

If there is any truth about the deal, two important but painful points become all too obvious. First, the next government will still be decided by drawing room politics and not the people or the polls. The election technology seems to have been perfected to the extent in which minute details of results can be guaranteed. How this attitude would go with the promise of free elections is for others to guess but the office holders feel powerful enough to determine the post election political setup. The second inference is equally disturbing. The government officials suggesting that freeing of jailed PPP leader Yousaf Gillani is a confirmation of the deal is a sad commentary on the state of our judiciary which might be bordering on contempt so I will not talk about it any more. Where will the elections with predetermined outcome take us should not be hard to imagine but one thing is for sure it would not be desirable.


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