While there are bigger issues at hand

Courtesy:- Malik Muhammad Ashraf

We are back to the crass politics of nineties marked by intense polarisation and political vendettas. The brand of politics that not only culminated in the derailment of democracy in the country but also left deep scars on the political landscape which continue to haunt the Pakistani nation. The Sharif brothers enjoy the dubious distinction of starting that despicable drama in collaboration with the establishment in the nineties and now again share the blame. They do not seem to have learnt from their past mistakes. They are crying hoarse from every convenient roof-top to urge the prime minister to abdicate power on moral grounds after the SC verdict but do not realise that it is also their moral obligation not to mislead the people on crucial national issues. Their actions are also politicising the judiciary.


True, the PM has been convicted for contempt of court by the SC but that is not the end of the road. The PM has the right of appeal and till such time that the appeal is heard and final verdict given, he remains the chief executive legally as well as constitutionally. The Pakistan Bar Council has also admitted this fact and thrown its weight behind the PM. Islamabad High Court in a petition seeking disqualification of the PM has also observed that the SC in its verdict has not disqualified the PM from holding the office of the chief executive. In the backdrop of this evidence as to the constitutional position of the prime minister, the insistence by the PML(N) that Syed Yousaf Raza has ceased to be the legal PM is absolutely untenable and extremely misleading.

The opposition, particularly the PML(N) is so blinded by their lust for power and animosity towards the PPP-led coalition government that it did not even hesitate from asking the British PM not to play host to Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani as prime minister of Pakistan. They were not alone in this sabre-rattling; a section of the media sympathetic to their cause and essentially hostile to the present government also joined this shameful exercise. Nobody would grudge the legitimate right of the opposition to grill the government on issues of national importance but it is certainly not desirable to pull the rug from under the feet of the chief executive embarking on a foreign visit.

To an anodyne observer, the visit coming in the backdrop of a row between Pakistan and US regarding resumption of NATO supplies and the continuing deadlock, was of immense significance as the UK is the closest and major ally of US in the war on terror and is in a position to help resolve the stalemate amicably. The issue did come up for discussion between the two leaders and it provided an excellent opportunity to Pakistan to clarify its position on the subject and the stakes that it has in re-engaging with US and NATO in a manner that meets Pakistan’s concerns and is also mutually beneficial. The developments on this issue after the visit do suggest that there is a significant movement towards resolving the conundrum. Pakistan has been invited to the Chicago Conference without any pre-conditions. The matter has been deliberated upon at a high level meeting and also in the DCC. The Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has also indicated the possibility to re-opening the NATO supplies indicating that the ice has finally started melting and sentimentalism is giving way to prudence.

Contrary to the expectations of the PML(N) and its cohorts, the British government extended befitting protocol and welcome to PM Gilani and said that he was working to make democracy strong in Pakistan. These words coming from the leader of the mother of all democracies are indeed very reassuring and an acknowledgement of the leadership in ensuring continuation of the democratic process in the face of an unremitting hostility by its opponents, conspiracies of the elements inimical to the democratic norms and some controversial decisions by the more than independent judiciary.

On the bilateral front, the visit has been successful. The two sides agreed to enhance their bilateral trade from the current level of 1.4 billion pound sterling to 2.5 billion pound sterling by 2015 in pursuance to the UK-Pakistan Enhanced Strategic Dialogue launched in 2011. The British leader acknowledged sacrifices made by Pakistan in furthering the objectives of war on terror and also expressed resolve to help Pakistan in meeting security challenges and curbing militancy, terrorism and religious extremists which pose an existentialist threat to Pakistan.

The affirmation and endorsement by the UK of the contribution made by Pakistan to the war on terror is very encouraging as it would strengthen its position in regards to any future dialogue with the US and NATO. The UK has also played a pivotal role in ensuring duty-free access of Pakistani products to the EU markets which represents an exponential boost to Pakistan’s foreign trade. The visit therefore was timely and productive. Such summit level interactions are never meaningless as they invariably help to create better understanding and enhancing bilateral cooperation between the countries involved besides affording opportunity for exchanging views on matters of global importance. They also help in resolving issues which cannot be tackled through normal diplomatic channels. The criticism hurled at the PM by the opposition for undertaking this visit smacks of their traditional cynicism rather than an objective appraisal of the obtaining circumstances and the benefits that it will accrue to Pakistan.

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