Aijaz Ahmad commentary: Sharif refuses coalition government; Zardari on his own
(TEXT ON SCREEN): Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister and leader of the second largest party in the newly elected Pakistan Parliament, has withdrawn his offer to join a coalition government and offers conditional “support from outside.” The Real News Senior News Analyst Aijaz Ahmad recorded this commentary just a few hours before the announcement.
AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR NEWS ANALYST: In Pakistan, elections have been held, and results have been known for almost a whole week now. But President Musharraf seems to be in no great hurry to call anyone to come forward and form the government. The elected representatives don’t seem to be in any great hurry either, because in Pakistan now, this is high season for bickering, backstage negotiations, and possibly fresh alignments, even before the new government has emerged. Asif Zardari, who has taken over the PPP and fought the elections on the slogan of getting rid of President Musharraf, now says that he’s going to cooperate fully with Musharraf, because he lacks a two-third majority in Parliament to impeach the president. PPP’s nominee for prime ministership, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, goes further and says that he is going to cooperate with Musharraf because Musharraf was duly elected by the outgoing National Assembly. In this, the good Makhdoom seems to be in agreement with John McCain, Condoleezza Rice, and others. Musharraf is being accepted now as a legitimate ruler of Pakistan. On the issue of the judiciary and the restoration of the judges who had been fired by President Musharraf, Zardari is completely noncommittal and simply talks about ensuring freedom for the judiciary in the future. Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister whose party has come in second in the election results, has of course announced that he is going to cooperate with Zardari in forming a coalition government, but takes the opposite position: he says that the judiciary, the judges who had been fired, have to be reinstated right away so that they can hear the petition on the question of whether or not Musharraf was a legitimate candidate, because Sharif says in his view Musharraf is an unconstitutional, illegal head of state, a usurper of governmental power. He therefore is not going to cooperate with Musharraf, he says, although he also says that he’s going to form a coalition government with Zardari, who says that he is going to cooperate with Musharraf. Now, Musharraf of course has been closely identified with a political party and whose victory Musharraf had been predicting before the elections. In the elections, that political party came in third and was expected to sit on the opposition benches. Now, Shujaaat Hussain, who has served as the prime minister under Musharraf and who heads the party, has said that he’s not willing to sit in the opposition and wants to join the government. This sits in very neatly with Zardari’s call for a government of national consensus. Zardari can now argue that in order for national reconciliation, not only Sharif and Zardari should form the government, they should also include Musharraf’s party and work with Musharraf as well. On his part, Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister who is formally now a coalition partner with Zardari, has gone off for a highly publicized meeting with the head of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest of the Islamicist political parties, which boycotted the elections, and held a highly publicized press conference together with him. They have together said that the judiciary must be reinstated immediately so that it can rule over the legality of Musharraf continuing in office in the first place. Moreover, Nawaz Sharif has said that the United States needs to define what it means by “war of terror,” because people who are supposed to be participating in this war needs to know just who the enemy is. Moreover, he says that this war cannot be fought just with weapons, and dialog must be a major instrument of policy. Zardari, on his part, has said that he’s going to join the war against terror, he’s not going to have a dialog with terrorists as America and Zardari called them, so that there seems to be developing a major confrontation between the two coalition partners on that issue as well. Nawaz Sharif wants the old judges back because they had expected to rule that Musharraf’s continuing in the office of the president is unconstitutional. In taking up this demand, he is putting himself on the side of a popular sentiment, especially among the urban, educated middle classes who want that judiciary back. In doing so, he’s also challenging the alignment of the Pakistan government with the United States. Zardari, on the other hand, needs Musharraf and does not want the old judiciary. He wants the new judges, because there are corruption cases pending against him, both inside the country as well as in foreign courts. Only Musharraf and the new judiciary can in fact save him against those corruption charges. The United States seems to have got their man, the most corrupt politician in today’s Pakistan, expected to become—not immediately, but in a few months—the prime minister of Pakistan, who will cooperate with Musharraf and General Kiyani to execute the war pretty much as the United States wants it.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.