By Dr. Hasan Askari
What attracted greatest attention was the decision of AkhtarMengal, a former Chief Minister of Balochistan, to present his views on this issue to the Supreme Court. He blamed the security establishment and the ISI and the MI of kidnapping people and killing them.
Pakistan’s parliament and provincial assemblies are in the fifth and the final year of their tenure. It is expected that the National and Provincial Assemblies elections will be held together.
In Pakistan’s parliamentary system of government the elections can be called by the prime minister at any time. However, on the expiry date of the term, these elections become obligatory within 60 days. If the National Assembly is dissolved earlier, then the elections are held within 90 days.
If the tenure of the National Assembly is stretched to the maximum, its elections will be held no later than the middle of May. The tenure of the National Assembly can be extended by one year by the National Assembly after the declaration of emergency by the President. This is a cumbersome process because even the state of emergency has to be approved by the parliament. However, the tenure of the Provincial Assemblies cannot be extended.
There does not appear to be any possibility of extension of the tenure of the National Assembly and the elections are expected to be held in April or early May of 2013.
While the federal government was facing the wrath of the military and the PMLN on the Memo issue in November-December 2011, many political analysts and leaders predicted that the federal government would like to do two major political activities and then go for the general elections. These two political activities were the holding of the Senate elections in February-March 2012 and the presentation of the national budget to the parliament in early June which would be approved before the end of June. It was widely believed in the political circles that the federal government would announce fresh elections in August or September to be held in November or December of 2013.
The federal government achieved these two objectives successfully and was able to overcome the removal of the prime minister by the Supreme Court in the last week of June. The coalition at the federal level elected a new prime minister who is now facing contempt of court proceedings. It seems that the federal government will write a letter to Swiss authorities as desired by the Supreme Court. This is not likely to end the confrontation between the federal government and the Supreme Court because the Supreme Court is expected to continue its pressure on the federal government and it is likely to take up the Rental Power issue to entangle the prime minister in new court case.
Instead of sapping the determination of the federal government, these controversies have emboldened them and the federal political leadership plans to extend its tenure to the maximum limit of the third week of March 2013.
A new controversy has arisen last week when the Supreme Court resumed the case of disappearances of people in Balochistan. What attracted greatest attention was the decision of AkhtarMengal, a former Chief Minister of Balochistan, to present his views on this issue to the Supreme Court. He blamed the security establishment and the ISI and the MI of kidnapping people and killing them. The opposition leaders, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, supported AkhtarMengal’s perspective on the disappearance issue. The media was generally sympathetic towards Mengal. The Supreme Court ordered the Army and the government to present their views on the matter.
In this controversy the PPP-led federal government has decided to side with the Army/intelligence establishment that claimed that they were not undertaking any military operation in Balochistan, and that they did not have any person in their detention. Not many people in the political circles accepted this statement as true.
As the superior judiciary is now targeting the Army, the PPP federal government seems to be getting closer to the Army as both are under pressure from the Supreme Court.
It was easy for the Supreme Court to take action against Prime Minister Gilani but it may not be the case when it comes to the military. Pakistan will therefore witness interesting developments in the next couple of weeks.
This give some breathing space to the federal government that is under pressure from all directions and its performance continues to be poor. There is no hope of improvement of its performance during the period up to the general elections.
In such circumstances, a smooth interaction with the military can ease some pressure on the federal government. It will be relatively easy for the federal government to survive until it reaches the maximum time limit in March 2013.
Who suffers from such politics of pressure and the struggle for survival? The common people suffer because of the power game of these powerful players. The welfare of the common people is hardly important for the top political leaders, the superior judiciary and the military.