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Friday, May 27, 2011

Sharing The Pie With King's Men

Four years ago, a man who had been languishing in Landhi jail for too long, living under the shadows of his illustrious wife, perceived as a political liability of the largest party of the country, would emerge as its savior and would become the President of Pakistan, was totally unbelievable. Yes life is all about surprises, and it turned out to be a rather rude surprise for many of his die hard haters and detractors.

Benazir's untimely and ill fated demise in Rawalpindi left the baton in the hands of highly loathed, despised and criticized Zardari. Who took the shattered party with the slogans of "Pakistan Khappey", and ousted a rather cornered and paralyzed former General. The timing perhaps was on his side. Or was it a gift of fate for years worth of incarceration for unsubstantiated charges. After almost 10 years of dictatorial regime, it was a strange coincidence, that a man once remembered and scorned with the digit of 10, took the oath of the highest office of the land.

Yes democracy turned out to be the sweetest revenge for him. Plagued, chastised and demoralized endlessly by the detractors, he remained determined to rewrite a new chapter. Pragmatism replaced the usual victimization of the rivals and dialogue not dislodge took the center stage. The long and stained history of political enmity was buried and bitter rival, Nawaz Sharif was invited to join hands.

The Murree Declaration was signed by both which was a follow up to the Charter of Democracy, envisaged by late Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. All was going well. However for a nation full of tragic and beleaguered political history, these festivities were fairly short lived. The thorny issues such as restoration of the Chief Justice and other partisan bickering became the reason for their divorce.

The unseen yet the most powerful forces of the nation, were delighted with this break up. If this union would have survived, it could have potentially dismantled the myth of their dominance for good. In the end, it was the good old game and the forces in the shadows, beaming with pleasure.

Asif Zaradari and his list of political blemishes (real or perceived) may be long, but he deserves credit for taking Pakistan back to the path of democracy.
Even a fragile democracy is a million times better than a dictatorial rule. In a fragile democracy, parties of common interests form a coalition to govern. Often the parties may be poles apart on ideological frontiers, but circumstances bring them closer to form a rather weird alliance. Differences are hashed out and common grounds are negotiated and achieved through dialogue.

Left in lurch without the coalition partners, Zardari made some tough choices. It was more of a do or die. A big gamble in the political casino by joining the former rivals and bitter adversaries, created and crafted by the former General. Once termed as "Kings Party" and "Kings Men", the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, who were once considered bitter rivals, brought on board to save the withering coalition. Survival is the end game and swallowing of this bitter pill was necessary to remain alive. At the cost of constant ridicule, he embraced the same Chaudhrys, who were once accused by him, for being somewhat behind, the murder of his wife.

The deal was sealed with the usual give and take. Q Leaguers wanted ministries and a role of a Deputy Prime Minister. As the saying goes, everything was accepted and thrown in along with the kitchen sink to bring the Q Leaguers on board. What was termed as the "deal to strengthen democracy", got a bit shunned by much bigger news, that consumed the masses around the globe about Pakistan, around that time about a mansion in Abottabad.

The political pundits have written off this alliance as a non starter. The PML-Q camp that signed the dotted line, has a history of opportunistic politics. They have deserted their former parties to go along with the pied pipers of the moment. This reality was perhaps factored into the equation, when PPP decided to yield to this supposedly political low.

For those who have been watching all of these developments from the sidelines, it appears a very well and thought out plan. PPP, despite its waning popularity has the real players in its bag. On one hand it has MQM in Karachi and urban Sindh and the other they have the crutches of Q Leaguers in Punjab. Not to mention the ANP in KP and in its own presence in rather volatile Balochistan. It seems like the landscape around the nation has been covered.

All this corners PML-N and reality of the matter is that it leads Sharif with no other option, but to rally his former ideological partners of religious right. Despite their constant and never ending rhetoric, the religious parties do not have a winning vote bank. With all the upheavels caused by the "honorable", historically they have been dismissed as a real political entity, come election day.

This leaves Mr. Sharif with the emerging blue eyed boy of the establishment, Mr. Imran Khan. If truth be told, Mr. Sharif will probably have to partner with Mr. Khan to gain some mileage. Needless to say the remaining Q Leaguers, who did not go along with this deal, will have to make a choice to jump in bed with Mr. Sharif as well. Giving heed to his recent statements, Mr. Sharif is playing safe on all frontiers. On one day he criticizes the establishment for Abbotabad security lapse and the other, he chimes with the message of Mr. Khan, giving some anti US statements pertaining to its affairs in Pakistan.

The million dollar question, which remains unanswered at this point is, where will all this leads for another leader to return from his self imposed exile. Yes Mr. Musharraf has made some announcements to make his comeback prior to March 23, 2012. Only some one with a really accurate crystall ball can predict, which side will he end up with. It will be an interesting 2012 and if one can read between the lines, the maneuvering has begun.

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