Long March Hijacked. By Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd.)

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Big fish eat the small fish. Looks like the PML (N) is all set to swallow the tasty and ripe Black Coats. PML (N) couldn’t find a better opportunity than the ensuing Long March to strike with full might. Ever since the return of the exiles from Jaddah, the brothers have been playing their cards astutely. They have kept their eyes fixed and focused on the topmost leadership of the country, come what may. Had BB been not martyred, they would have played the NRO and the Deals cards abundantly and could have possibly carried the day. However, with the sudden demise of the lady the emotionally charged masses favoured the PPPP who even then could manage a marginal lead over PML(N) but not enough to form an independent government of their own. Hence the coalition was needed, but coalition with whom? Sharif brothers shrewdly extended the arm, ostensibly in a good gesture of burying the hatchet and making up the numbers for the required two third majority in the assembly for undoing the 17th Amendment and 58-2B etc., but in reality for keeping the lesser parties out and making the PPP dependent upon them and also in the bargain getting a hold on Punjab – the real power base of any political party. “We will give you all the support to form the government but wouldn’t be the part of the cabinet”, was a perplexing logic they confronted Zardari with from day one. MNS had appreciated and correctly too that the PPP will not be able to deliver on the tall promises of Roti,Kapra aur Makan, overall high prices, high inflation, power & gas load shedding, increased utility bills, petrol & diesel prices, unemployment, mahngai and a horde of other such problems. They as such didn’t want to be part of a defaulting government and on the contrary, if anything, they could cash upon PPP’s inefficiency by staying out of the government. AAZ, however, got them onboard by offering some of the most lucrative and important portfolios at the centre and the Chief Minister-ship of the Punjab in a reciprocal coalition there. Nawaz’s men on the first opportunity finding an excuse came out of the Federal Cabinet and the coalition and assumed the official role of the Opposition in the assembly, but strangely yet assuring their full support to the PPP government. PPP had to look for the alternates and in the Land of the Pure there is no dearth of the opportunists. Soon the cabinet swelled to 52 ministers and then to 56 with the scope and capacity to increase still further if required. Governor Taseer also started looking around while at the same time indulging in pinpricks with the PML (N) coalition government in Punjab. The minor acts of blame game are turning into acrimonious animosity and the day doesn’t seem to be far when the two most powerful political parties will resort to open hostilities. MNS and Co. seem to have placed the 17th amendment and the 58-2B on the back burner and taken the strategy of direct approach – reinstatement of Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as the first and foremost demand. On the face of it it looks to be a principled stand for the restoration of the pre-November 3, 2007 Judiciary and the annulment of the government acts carried out under the emergency imposed by General Musharraf. However, when examined under the microscopic legal and constitutional lens the matter does not remain that simple. One thing, all legal decisions taken by the present CJP and other judges of the Supreme Court and other higher courts, sworn under the PCO, become questionable. Can those all decision be undone? It will be extremely chaotic even to think in those lines. Sharif brothers have a definite interest of their own in annulling the emergency and removing the judges sworn under the PCO. They expect that all charges brought against them and being heard by the PCO sworn judges will automatically be dropped. Not only that, they also expect that Justice Iftikhar if and when restored as the Chief Justice of Pakistan will resume the hearing of the NRO case which he was doing at the time of his removal. And, if the NRO Pandora’s box is opened, who knows what all could happen. Zardari is most likely to be hit the hardest. Hence, the hijacking of the lawyers movement and the long march by the PML (N), not exactly for having an independent judiciary in the country but more for the restoration of Iftkhar Muhammad Chaudhry as the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
Should the long march and the dharna somehow fail to produce the required result of restoring the deposed Chief Justice, MNS is exploring the alternate plans as well. The other most effective course open to him is the constitutional floor of the parliament. In the ensuing month of March 2009 a total of 50 senators will retire - 11 from each province, 2 from Islamabad and 4 from FATA. So will the Chairman Senate Mohammedmian Soomro. Both PPP and PML (N) will need desperately more votes from the next senate. Both are trying for the maximum seats for their nominees. So are trying the other parties, particularly PML (Q) who is in a big bargaining position at the present and being wooed both by Zardari as well as MNS. According to a reliable ‘rumour’ MNS has flown to UK – ostensibly to see his son there but actually to have a one to one meeting with Ch, Shuja’t of the PML (Q). Should all the Muslim Leagues flock together they can arrange the coveted 2/3rd majority among themselves and their few allies to incorporate any constitutional amendments they like, including tabling the no confidence motion against the PPP government.
The dice is heavily loaded and the coming weeks could be monumental historians writing the history of Pakistan. Let’s wait and see.

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