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Final round of survival? It’s do or die

Tehelka story last week: Government in final round of survival game: It’s do or die

Either the government will withstand the pressure from the unelected arms of the state or will cave in, says Raza Rumi

Pakistan’s beleaguered civilian government has entered into the final round of its survival game. This is not a new ‘game’ as the transition to democracy has been jeopardised from the very start. In 2007, the military junta started the process of negotiating with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the then Army chief, General Pervez Musharraf, and his trusted associate General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani shaped a power-sharing arrangement with late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The ‘arrangement’ was formalised in the shape of a law—National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)—which inter alia intended to drop dozens of cases against PPP’s leadership and politicians. It should be noted that many of these cases were pending in courts for over a decade and due to lack of evidence or faulty prosecution, there were no convictions.

Politicians in Pakistan have faced ‘corruption’ charges since 1950s largely as an instrument to keep them in line and expand the space for the unelected executive i.e. the civil-military bureaucracy, which has ruled Pakistan for the longest period of time in its chequered history. The judiciary historically acted as a subordinate ally of the executive legitimising coups, convicting and debarring politicians and enabling a praetorian state to run the country.

Since 2007, the judiciary has evolved as a powerful institution due to the popular middle-class movement which contributed to the restoration of the deposed Judges and paved the way for Musharraf’s ouster in 2009. The period between 2007 and 2009 was when the urban middle class’ (led by the lawyers) aspirations […]

January 31st, 2012|governance, Pakistan|1 Comment

The Zardari conundrum

by Raza Rumi ( published in the NEWS)

By all statistical estimates and anecdotal evidence, Pakistan’s middleclass has grown during the last decade. The visible manifestation of this historically significant trend was the spontaneous outrage at the dismissal of the chief justice in 2007 and the robust movement that followed. However, the other side of this sociological transformation has been the capture of the “opinion” in Pakistan by the overdriven urban middleclass segment now backed and voiced through a powerful and not always responsible electronic media.

Amid the torrential attacks and doomsday predictions on Asif Zardari’s candidature for presidency, a few reasoned voices have attempted to remind the country that fortification of a fractured democratic process requires civilian ascendancy. No, say our wise ones. They are enraged at the corruption tales, and media and real trials. There is a deafening silence over the fact that without a single conviction an accused has spent 11-and-a-half years in jails and suffered solitary imprisonment, torture and pressure that could have easily broken a common back. Admittedly, our president-to-be is hardly an angel. But this is not about morality or middleclass affront or even a thousand stories of international media that have suddenly become so credible. Not long ago, the vanguard of middleclass morality were telling us how biased the international media is about Musharraf and how twisted its reporting was on the US-led war on terror. All of a sudden Zardari tales have become legit, true and worrying. […]

September 6th, 2008|media, Politics, Published in the NEWS|7 Comments

An open letter to Mr Aitzaz Ahsan

This was published in DAWN yesterday

By Raza Rumi

THAT you are principled, charismatic and right is beyond doubt. You have inspired the cynical, intelligentsia, revived a moribund civil society and awakened Pakistan’s traditionally de-politicised middle class.

This is something that history shall record gloriously – reminiscent of the way you re-invoked the essential attributes of ‘Indus man’ in your treatise on the pre-historic identity of Pakistan.

Today, all efforts to generate ‘positive’ results from Election 2008 have foundered; and there is a new parliament ready to be sworn in. The new National Assembly, reflecting the fractured polity, has one common thread – nearly two thirds of its members constitute or sympathise with what was known as the opposition before February 2008. This is a moment of reckoning and most concrete outcome of a decade long struggle initiated by your friend Mr Nawaz Sharif, your leader the late Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and your supporters in the middle class and urban democrats. The movement that followed the suspension of the Chief Justice in March 2007 was a culmination of public discontent that started way before. That you provided a shape and led it, is, your stellar contribution.

This is a historic moment that cannot be squandered or lost to the politics of personalities and individuals. Most Pakistanis are in awe of the dismissed Chief Justice for his strength of character, they have tremendous respect for the members of the bench who refused to succumb to the executive diktat following the imposition of emergency in November 2007. And above all, they are also tired of General Musharraf whose good intentions have only led to the proverbial hell of energy and food crises, rampant inflation and roaming suicide bombers. But this struggle just cannot be about getting rid of the president and reinstating the Chief Justice. That would be a belittling corollary of this fabulous episode in our recent history.

The representatives of the PPP, PML-N, ANP and bulk of like-minded independents are touching the magic number of two thirds in the new Assembly. If they are asked to settle a score with an individual and honour another few, history will not record it in kind terms.

Your call for a march towards Islamabad and the restoration of judges before Mar 9 is bound to polarise the fragile parliament, the political parties that have been beaten, poached, hounded with leaders assassinated or disqualified. It is a delicate juncture of our history and any division in the moderate political class or resort to historical bickering and blame-games will rock the system only to benefit the martial corridors of Islamabad’s Byzantine palaces and their traditional occupants.

This is why many citizens are worried and skeptical that nothing changes in the murky waters of Pakistani politics. […]

February 27th, 2008|published in DAWN|1 Comment