Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
Never in the history of Pakistan has a democratically elected civilian government served out its full term and then been replaced by another one, also through democratic elections. It is that context that makes the latest political crisis in Pakistan so important.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is scrambling to save his PPP-led government after it lost its parliamentary majority when its coalition partner, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), announced it would go into opposition. A smaller religious party, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), already quit the coalition last month. If the government falls and elections are held ahead of schedule in 2013, the opportunity for Pakistan to have a government which serves its full term will be lost.
The prevailing view among political analysts appears to be that the government is now less likely to last until 2013, even if it manages to survive in the short term. But given the peculiar nature of Pakistani politics, where the military exerts a powerful role behind the scenes, no one is predicting anything with any certainty.
The main opposition leader, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has shown little enthusiasm for forcing an early election which could propel his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) into power at a time when the country faces huge economic and security problems. Better to wait it out until an election in 2013 that his PML-N is seen as likely to win. Having been ousted in a coup in 1999, Sharif also remains deeply suspicious of the army, and he has ruled out supporting any moves against the government that might be orchestrated by the military. Giving democracy time to bed down, by allowing the government led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to serve its full term, could set a useful precedent for a future PML-N administration.
Even before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Asif Ali Zardari broke the ice by meeting on the sidelines of a regional summit in Yekaterinburg, Russia last month, the real question over talks between India and Pakistan has not been about the form but the substance.
After the bitterness of last year’s attacks on Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants, can India and Pakistan work their way back to a roadmap for an agreement on Kashmir reached two years ago? Although never finalised, the roadmap opened up the intellectual space for an eventual peace deal. This week’s meetings between India and Pakistan on the sidelines of a Non-Aligned Movement summit in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt could give some clues on whether it has any chance of being revived.
from India Insight:
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has dropped a plan to travel to Egypt next month where he was expected to hold further talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh following their meeting in Russia this week.
Pakistan's foreign office has said Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani will attend the summit of Non-Aligned Nations in the Egyptian city of Sharm El Sheikh although soon after the Singh-Zardari meeting in Yekaterinburg the two sides announced plans for a second meeting in July.