Monday, March 14, 2011
This is a Pakpotpourri Exclusive
Since it’s inception in 1947, Pakistan has been riddled with the question of finding a system of governance tailor made for her needs. In the quest,Pakistan has had affairs with Parliamentary System, Presidential System, semi-Presidential System…..but has been unable so far, to determine what suits her best.
All shades of governments and rulers came and went. Democracy was replaced by Dictatorship and Dictatorship by Democracy. Governments formed, mostly in coalition by the winning party joining hands with one winning provincially to form a majority and set up government.
If we look at the 2008 General Elections results, it provides an enlightening picture. Pakistan Peoples Party won a total of 94 seats excluding 4 for minorities and 23 reserved for women, bringing the score up to 130 seats. Pakistan Muslim League- N bagged 95 seats, including 3 for minorities and 17 reserved for women. Pakistan Muslim League-Q secured 55 seats including 2 for minorities and 10 reserved for women. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) walked away with 26 seats, including 1 for minorities and 5 for women. Pakistan Muslim League-Fazlur Rehman Group nabbed 5 seats including one reserved for women. Pakistan Peoples Party –Sherpao Group took 1 seat as did the National Peoples Party. Baluchistan National Party-Awami, bagged a whooping 18 seats .
Thereby, a total of 226 seats were contested for and won by various parties in elections, 60 reserved for women, 10 reserved for minorities, bringing the total to 336. Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam (F) did not contest.
The picture becomes clear as the mist clears by figures quoted.
Collaboration and partnership of Muttahida Qaumi Movement becomes mandatory if the party bagging most votes needs to set up a government in Sindh. Once done,there are the constant tantrums thrown, and the provincial party, following in the footsteps of a film heroin, falls out with her lover, then is cajoled with sweets, flowers, and more expensive offerings. There are situations leading to a near complete break up of the love-hate relationship, only to realize, by both, near the brink ,how important the partnership is,managing to pull back and embrace- letting bygones be bygones- till the same cycle happens all over again!
Likewise, in Baluchistan, the active support of Baluchistan National Party (BNP) is mandatory to form government in province.
In Peshawar, it was Awami National Party that won 13 seats, but none from Hazara. To form government, support by ANP to the party forming the provincial government is needed.
What clearly emerges from the above scenario was that no single party is, across the board acceptable to the people of Pakistan. PPP emerges as the only party with representation in all four provinces securing half the seats in Sindh, one-third of seats in the Punjab, and roughly 30 per cent seats in NWFP and Baluchistan. PML-N, the second largest party is routed to Punjab only, with no representation in Sindh and Baluchistan, and, in NWFP, secured seats only in the non-Pushto speaking Hazara area. Ethnicity has started playing a big role in electing candidates-a dangerous trend.
The net result of this scenario is the following of an Appeasement Policy in dealing with the parties on board by the ruling party-whichever party is in the steering position, the 2008 General Elections results used as an example only. Instead of focusing on issues that should be focused on, time , energy, funds and resources are misdirected towards keeping the coalition partners happy and willing to keep government intact. Good governance suffers. It becomes relegated to the back burner. Insults are hurled at each other, accusations, counter accusations hold the day. Then miraculously, a ministry here, a promise there, and the sun comes out, bright and clear, till the next round!
The interests of these small pockets of seats won by local parties may,and do, differ widely on issues from that of the ruling party. In the long run, it may be the national interest that is sacrificed at the alter of Appeasement!
Who is to be blamed? The smaller parties? The ruling party? Or both?
I think it is the wrong system that is to be held responsible. So long there are smaller parties nibbling in the pie, demanding a slice, good governance will continue to suffer.
Pakistan must seriously look at changing over to a Two Party System rather than a Multi-Party System it presently is. This is something we have never tried. Something so basically, glaringly wrong in our whole approach to democracy, that that it has effected governance by whomsoever government has been in power.
Yes! It is time for those democratic infra structural changes in Pakistan.
(Yasmeen Ali is a lawyer based in Lahore. She also teaches in a University and moderates her blog Pakpotpourri2).
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Obama asks Saudis to airlift weapons into Benghazi
By Robert Fisk
Desperate to avoid US military involvement in Libya in the event of a prolonged struggle between the Gaddafi regime and its opponents, the Americans have asked Saudi Arabia if it can supply weapons to the rebels in Benghazi. The Saudi Kingdom, already facing a "day of rage" from its 10 per cent Shia Muslim community on Friday, with a ban on all demonstrations, has so far failed to respond to Washington's highly classified request, although King Abdullah personally loathes the Libyan leader, who tried to assassinate him just over a year ago.
Washington's request is in line with other US military co-operation with the Saudis. The royal family in Jeddah, which was deeply involved in the Contra scandal during the Reagan administration, gave immediate support to American efforts to arm guerrillas fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan in 1980 and later – to America's chagrin – also funded and armed the Taliban.
But the Saudis remain the only US Arab ally strategically placed and capable of furnishing weapons to the guerrillas of Libya. Their assistance would allow Washington to disclaim any military involvement in the supply chain – even though the arms would be American and paid for by the Saudis.
The Saudis have been told that opponents of Gaddafi need anti-tank rockets and mortars as a first priority to hold off attacks by Gaddafi's armour, and ground-to-air missiles to shoot down his fighter-bombers.
Supplies could reach Benghazi within 48 hours but they would need to be delivered to air bases in Libya or to Benghazi airport. If the guerrillas can then go on to the offensive and assault Gaddafi's strongholds in western Libya, the political pressure on America and Nato – not least from Republican members of Congress – to establish a no-fly zone would be reduced.
US military planners have already made it clear that a zone of this kind would necessitate US air attacks on Libya's functioning, if seriously depleted, anti-aircraft missile bases, thus bringing Washington directly into the war on the side of Gaddafi's opponents.
For several days now, US Awacs surveillance aircraft have been flying around Libya, making constant contact with Malta air traffic control and requesting details of Libyan flight patterns, including journeys made in the past 48 hours by Gaddafi's private jet which flew to Jordan and back to Libya just before the weekend.
Officially, Nato will only describe the presence of American Awacs planes as part of its post-9/11 Operation Active Endeavour, which has broad reach to undertake aerial counter-terrorism measures in the Middle East region.
The data from the Awacs is streamed to all Nato countries under the mission's existing mandate. Now that Gaddafi has been reinstated as a super-terrorist in the West's lexicon, however, the Nato mission can easily be used to search for targets of opportunity in Libya if active military operations are undertaken.
Al Jazeera English television channel last night broadcast recordings made by American aircraft to Maltese air traffic control, requesting information about Libyan flights, especially that of Gaddafi's jet.
An American Awacs aircraft, tail number LX-N90442 could be heard contacting the Malta control tower on Saturday for information about a Libyan Dassault-Falcon 900 jet 5A-DCN on its way from Amman to Mitiga, Gaddafi's own VIP airport.
Nato Awacs 07 is heard to say: "Do you have information on an aircraft with the Squawk 2017 position about 85 miles east of our [sic]?"
Malta air traffic control replies: "Seven, that sounds to be Falcon 900- at flight level 340, with a destination Mitiga, according to flight plan."
But Saudi Arabia is already facing dangers from a co-ordinated day of protest by its own Shia Muslim citizens who, emboldened by the Shia uprising in the neighbouring island of Bahrain, have called for street protests against the ruling family of al-Saud on Friday.
After pouring troops and security police into the province of Qatif last week, the Saudis announced a nationwide ban on all public demonstrations.
Shia organisers claim that up to 20,000 protesters plan to demonstrate with women in the front rows to prevent the Saudi army from opening fire.
If the Saudi government accedes to America's request to send guns and missiles to Libyan rebels, however, it would be almost impossible for President Barack Obama to condemn the kingdom for any violence against the Shias of the north-east provinces.
Thus has the Arab awakening, the demand for democracy in North Africa, the Shia revolt and the rising against Gaddafi become entangled in the space of just a few hours with US military priorities in the region.