Pakistan is undergoing a strange phenomenon of changing, even retracting, policy statements at the highest level of government, which has on several occasions led the country into embarrassing situations. This not only adds to confusion, but also provides a breeding ground for friction between the organs of the State. Without doubt, the present administration’s policy announcements have made an already bad situation worse. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s varying statements about the affidavits filed by Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and DG ISI Lt-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha in the Supreme Court regarding memogate is a case in point.
It is, however, surprising that the ruling elite in Islamabad shows no signs of regret, remorse or guilt whenever it takes a 180-degree turn and claims that the statements were quoted out of context and meant something quite the opposite of what had been reported by the media.
It is equally unfortunate that the leaders, who keep changing their statements involving highly sensitive issues of national security, do not feel the need to resign, probably, because Parliament never questions their undemocratic acts of omission and commission. As it is obvious, despite living in a democratic country, we - keeping in view the PPP-led government’s image, both internally and externally - do not have a lot to be proud of.
Perhaps, the pathetic state of affairs is partly due to the indifferent attitude of the opposition towards national issues. For instance, the leader of the largest opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), in Parliament had in person filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, seeking an investigation into the memo affair, since the alleged letter/document involved issues of national security, so that all those involved in the conspiracy could be identified and charged with high treason. Regardless of its sensitivity, reportedly, he is currently in London - perhaps, for a medical check-up. Yes, this shows the level of commitment!
Similarly, he had publicly declared more than once that the rulers in Islamabad were a ‘security risk’ for the nation. Therefore, his party would not hesitate to use all options, including mass resignations and long march to Islamabad, to oust the federal government. He maintained that his party would motivate people to come out to protest, like Arab Spring, and force the government to resign and hold snap polls. Adding that, it would not be allowed under any circumstances to complete its tenure.
Just look at the irony where political manoeuvring has taken over a previously stated policy or position, resulting in wriggling out and retreating, albeit without any apparent explanation, and regardless of losing face in the eyes of people, carrying out political gimmicks, pretending business as usual to avoid any comments and questions from the media; the easiest way out is to go abroad for a medical check-up!
Anyhow, the people of Pakistan, at large, are not only confused, but also frustrated with the prolonged suspense and uncertainty prevailing in the country, and thus they have lost confidence in the democratic setup. The PPP-led government definitely needs to make sincere efforts to improve governance and redress the grievances of the masses, rather than resorting to politically-motivated rhetoric. Otherwise, it should be prepared to face severe consequences.
Meanwhile, how can the international community trust Pakistan when its Prime Minister, attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, chooses to inform the world that Pakistani courts might send him to jail for which he is ready? In his interview to CNN, he said that “I am ready to go to prison, if the court so desires”, clearly hinting “how far his government was prepared to go to defend President Asif Ali Zardari on the issue of immunity in Swiss cases.” The question, however, remains: Is this likely to attract the world’s sympathy and support for the survival of Pakistan’s rapidly sliding economy?
The writer is President of the Pakistan National Forum.