The people of Pakistan have now been losing the hope as the new leaders, who assumes the power after elections held on the order of US President George W. Bush, failed to deliver. There are still terrorist attacks in the country. There are indications that the terrorists will again be given the time to carry out more terror attacks.
The News International while discussing the situation in Pakistan stated that after a stop-over at Dubai, the summit talks on the stalled issue of judicial restoration between Asif Ali Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif, which got underway in March at Murree, are now continuing in London. Rather like one of those long-winded Bollywood movies shot in many countries, the backdrop keeps changing but the plot fails to move on.
Even now, while the distance between Islamabad and the spot where talks are held continues to expand as PPP and PML-N leaders engage in an elaborate game of chase, following each other across states, continents and oceans, the fact is that there has been little progress in reaching a solution. Indeed the entire matter now seems densely stalemated, with the two major parties disagreeing on crucial issues. All sides have now acknowledged this, with a major point of contention involving the constitutional package the PPP seeks to link with a resolution restoring the judges. Under this, the judges who took oath under the PCO after November 3 2007 would be retained, changes made to legalize a bench that would grow to about 25 or more -- larger than that of the US, India and many other countries -- and in all likelihood, the tenure of judges would be reduced. The PPP also cites 'legal' reasons as to why a restoration through a simple executive order is difficult.
The issue has already led to senior jurist Fakhruddin G Ebrahim quitting the committee established to examine the matter. Ebrahim, like other retired judges and lawyers who have spearheaded the movement for the restoration of judges, holds that accepting the 'PCO judges' is impossible. To further complicate the situation, Hafeez Peerzada, seen by most as representing the presidency on the committee, says he has not been provided the draft prepared by the committee. Despite these ominous goings on, the federal law minister insists optimistically that a 'breakthrough' has been achieved.
The language from the PML-N camp is meanwhile hardening and Mian Nawaz Sharif has stated that the matter is only about political will rather than other complexities. In other words, he has accused the PPP of lacking commitment. This is a suspicion others have expressed as well. The PML-N has also warned it will quit the coalition government if the May 12 deadline for restoration is not adhered to. The reports that Zardari may suggest a presidential ordinance, tied in with indemnity for Musharraf for his actions of November 3, indicate growing desperation. There are many doubts over whether such a formula would be acceptable to the PML-N.
At the present moment, Mian Nawaz Sharif holds the moral high ground. His tough anti-Musharraf and pro-judiciary stance means he is seen as a hero by people for whom the judicial drama has come to represent a struggle against the president of citizens who rejected him on February 18. A failure to agree on a judicial restoration would push Zardari more forcefully still into the role of a villain. Already, he is being painted in many circles as an opponent of democracy. The PPP's role has come even more under question after the by-election fiasco and the alleged involvement in it of the adviser on interior.
The withdrawal of the PML-N from the federal government would force the PPP into a three-way arrangement with the MQM and the presidency. Indeed, a meeting between Altaf Hussain and Zardari is expected in London. By forming a part of such a troika, the PPP would of course inflict greater damage to its standing with people. The 'establishment' would register another win, the PML-N would grow stronger in terms of popular support and Zardari's dream, of setting in place a changed political order would effectively fade away. The PPP must then remember what is at stake. Whereas it is true the judicial issue was never on its manifesto, and in real terms has little impact on lives, the fact is that today it stands at centre stage in the public mind. How this issue is handled will determine the fate of the coalition government at the centre and set the stage for the kind of government Pakistan will have in the near future.