Agreeing to Disagree

Posted: September 9, 2008 in Political
Tags: , , , , , ,

The amiable meeting between the PML-N Chief Mian Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari in Islamabad, just ahead of the latter’s swearing in as president, offers some hope for the future. Although Zardari failed to persuade the PML-N to return to coalition politics, his assurance to Sharif that the government in the Punjab would not be destabilized is important. This has, according to reports, been backed by an order from the centre to Punjab Governor Salman Taseer not to issue statements attacking the PML-N. It had been anticipated that the breakup of the coalition in the centre could lead to a murky battlefield opening up in Punjab, with efforts to topple the PML-N government. In anticipation of such developments, a PML-Q forward bloc had already announced support for Sharif; apprehensions regarding the ugly politics of horse-trading hovered.

It must be hoped the Zardari-Nawaz meeting has put an end to such speculation. Certainly the message of cooperation sent out by both men is a welcome one. The key task for Pakistan’s politicians at this time is to prove that civilian rule can indeed succeed. Till now, the failures of democratic governments elected after 1988 to complete their term have left many in doubt about this. Each time a government has fallen, the event has been preceded by a stand-off with opposition parties and multiple accusations of victimization that have only aided the establishment and the other forces that wield power in the country to manipulate the situation to their own advantage.

The opening up of cases against the Sharif family a few days ago by NAB had once more raised the spectre of a new chain of developments along similar lines. It must be hoped the Zardari-Nawaz dialogue at this critical time will help to quash any such moves. A democratic system can only deliver when both the government and the opposition play a role in facilitating its functioning and respecting each others rights. We must hope that the long months of interaction between Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, in their many meetings aimed at saving the coalition, have enabled them to build mutual understanding and a line of communication, even if they did not keep the coalition setup afloat. There has been an indication, during the obviously warm meeting, that Sharif and Zardari still share a willingness to work together. This must be kept intact over the inevitably difficult months ahead, so that Pakistan’s latest tryst with democratic rule can produce better results than those that have come in before.

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