December issue 2004

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 17 years ago

The Supreme Court orders the release of Asif Zardari on bail after an eight-year prison term; Musharraf condoles with the Sharif brothers on the death of their father; Raza Rabbani’s name is cleared as leader of the opposition in the Senate. Has the government finally seen the light? Is a grand reconciliation in the offing? Are elections on the cards in 2005? Is Musharraf finally doffing his uniform?

The air is rife with rumours…of pressure from the Americans… of a deal with BB… of the government’s own domestic compulsions… of the establishment’s plan to divide and rule.

The truth lies somewhere in between, but the government is holding its cards close to its medalled chest, unwilling to say anything beyond what its spin doctors stated at the outset: it’s part of the grand reconciliation design. The question is, reconciliation with whom — simply BB, or are the Sharifs included in the loop?

Moreover, how will Musharraf’s current partners — the PML(Q), the PPP Patriots, the MMA and the MQM — reconcile to this reconciliation process that could strike at the roots of their power. Were the Chaudhries even taken into confidence about the establishment’s game-plan? If there were a threat of their power base being eroded, the Chaudhries of Gujrat would think nothing of ganging up with the MMA to counter any PPP moves to poach on their territory. The PML has more in common with the MMA, ideologically speaking, than any other party. For that matter, General Musharraf too had no problem sidelining mainstream political parties and working with the MMA till the war on terrorism came along and upset the apple cart. The army had to take a 360-degree turn and drop the jihadi brigade.

The MMA no longer fits into the General’s current framework of ‘enlightened moderation’ and his mantra of peace with India. A liberal party like the PPP would be more in tune with his notion of a progressive Pakistan. Moreover, Musharraf is probably beginning to realise that the model that he had crafted with so many unholy alliances and amendments is coming apart at the seams and drastically needs some emergency surgery. The General may be willing to play ball now, but how far is the PPP willing to go with the army to get back into the corridors of power? Will it agree to a President in-uniform? Would it be willing to allow the National Security Council, headed by the President, to remain in place?

Interesting and difficult days lie ahead as the political puzzle winds itself into a double pretzel.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.