By Ankur Sohanpal:
The political realm of Pakistan has yet again given the entire world a reason to hold their breath in anticipation for the next absurdity. On the nineteenth day of this month, the existing prime minister of Pakistan, Yousuf Raza Gilani, a close political ally of President Asif Ali Zardari, was disqualified from remaining in office by the Supreme Court (in what many call a judicial coup by the Judiciary system of the country). The action took place under the ruling of Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, for reasons “to be recorded later.”
Pakistan’s politicians have always been aware of the army exercising its power in mainstream political decisions. However, the army now has a close powerful contender for the subtle political decision making — many call this a continuation in the judicial trend of the Supreme Court making decisions which ‘overreach its constitutional powers’, under the leadership of chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
This abrupt decision was made because Yousuf Gilani refused to reopen the graft charges of corruption and black money, against the President Asif Ali. Apparently, the case being forced to be reopened against Zardari relates to kickbacks, he and his late wife and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto received from Swiss companies when Bhutto was in power in the 1990s.
In Gilani’s stead, the ruling party, PPP (Pakistan’s People’s Party) in a desperate attempt to be the first party to complete 5 years in power, on the 20th of June nominated Makhdoom Shahabuddin as candidate. In a bid to demonstrate its power, the army influenced, Anti-Narcotics Force almost immediately issued a warrant for his arrest. He was accused of being the part of a scandal involving the import of a drug that could have been used to make methamphetamine. Apparently, this is not an alarming case in Pakistan. Politicians have many legal cases filed against them by rivals in order to weaken their political status. These charges, however, do not make a politician incompetent to contend. And if elected to power, arrest warrants become null due to immunity.
Next, PPP nominated Raja Pervez Ashraf as the party’s candidate. On 22nd June, he was successfully elected, with rose petals lining his way to the PM’s seat in the National Assembly Chamber.
Why does this conform to the expectations of people across the world? Because Raja Pervez Ashraf was the country’s previous water and power minister. It was under his incompetent leadership that the country faced severe power shortage during the summer months. He is said to be largely responsible as the creator and extreme aggravator of the country’s acute power crisis. In fact, it is believed that Pervez’s election is unlikely to ease the appalling power cuts or to end the stalemate in relations with the United States that have led to a seven-month blockade on NATO supplies into Afghanistan. He will also be under pressure from the courts and the army to reopen the charges against Zardari, while his nomination and election to power is only due to his loyalty to Zardari. There is already an ongoing investigation against Pervez, who is popularly called ‘Rental Raja’ by the media. According to Imran Khan, the former cricketer and rising opposition politician, “The candidature of Raja Pervez Ashraf for PM shows the utter contempt Asif Zardari has for the people of Pakistan.”
According to US political analysts, the army and court want to remove President Zardari and have been trying one tactic after another. Many believe that the army is strongly against any politician who is pro-American relationships. According to Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution: while recent political happenings cannot be called the breaking point of Pakistani political system, they can certainly be categorized as a serious setback in improving US-Pakistan relations. The courts and the army denies this, with a Pakistani military official saying that while it is difficult for Pakistan to maintain this relationship, they are ‘painfully’, and patiently working at it.
Meanwhile, typical but important functions of the country are being neglected, as politicians vie to protect their money, time and investment for their personal careers.