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DAWN - Editorial; March 7, 2003

March 07, 2003


Confrontation over LFO?

ONCE again, a government and a highly worked-up opposition is on a collision course in Pakistan. The roar and thunder of street agitation — the bane of Pakistan’s politics — is once again in the air. While one hopes things would not go that far so soon, the extent of polarization seen in the National Assembly on Wednesday leaves one with a troubling sense of foreboding. “Go, go” is something we have heard before in parliament, but the results of those screaming, raging and tearing exercises hardly ever served to advance democracy’s or the country’s interests. The opposition’s rejection of the Legal Framework Order seems total. This is typically a Pakistani approach to politics and runs counter to the basic norms of democratic politics, which requires its practitioners to show a spirit of compromise and accommodation in order to avoid being driven to a dead end on a contentious issue. The issue before the nation once again is a “system” given by a military ruler. The “system” has been enforced in the form of a Legal Framework Order (LFO) containing sweeping amendments to the Constitution. These amendments had no popular backing. President Musharraf enacted them by making use of the Supreme Court’s judgment of May 12, 2000, validating the army takeover of October 1999. The judgment also authorized him to make changes in the Constitution considered necessary. However, this was by no means an open-ended authorization for restructuring the Constitution. As enacted and enforced, the LFO has already become part of the Constitution and cannot be challenged in court. This the opposition is not prepared to accept.

We have had occasion to plead in these columns that the LFO be put before the National Assembly for ratification. We had also pointed out repeatedly that a constitutional scheme approved by the people’s representatives had a better chance of survival. In this we were guided by Pakistan’s history, because “systems” given by generals without being so mandated by the people were scrapped the moment such self-appointed law givers ceased to hold power. Today, the “king’s party” has a majority in the National Assembly. For that reason, there is no reason why the government should not be willing to put the LFO to the vote. In all fairness, it may even be able to secure support from some on the opposition benches, provided a convincing case is made for retaining the whole or part of the LFO as a desirable option. However, the point to stress is that the LFO, despite some of its most controversial clauses, has some positive points too. These include the graduation clause, the increase in seats in the national and provincial assemblies, the substantial increase in the quota of women’s seats, the statutory status given to the National Accountability Bureau, the induction of joint electorate, the revival of Clause 58-2(b) in an amended form, etc. Surely, these amendments could stay in the Constitution. Rejecting the LFO in its totality would mean doing away with some of its useful provisions.

The controversial issues are basically two: the National Security Council and President Musharraf as both head of state and the chief of army staff. Instead of fighting the LFO battle as a take-it-or-leave-it contest, a better option would be to subject the package to a clause-by-clause scrutiny by a joint committee of the government and the opposition and then decide which ones to retain and which to leave out. This will be in keeping with the spirit and tradition of how contentious issues and problems are resolved in a democratic system of government. A political and constitutional confrontation of the kind threatened by Wednesday’s uproarious scenes in the National Assembly is the last thing that Pakistan can afford at this critical time.

Down and out

PAKISTAN’s pathetic performance in the World Cup and the team’s failure to reach the Super Six stage has put all the tall claims and optimistic forecasting at rest. While the final blow to the team’s, and the country’s, hopes was dealt by the rain in Bulawayo, there seem to be many reasons for the failure. The vagaries and uncertainties of one-day game notwithstanding, many glaring lapses and failures that came into view during the actual proceedings simply cannot be condoned. Some of the most alarming faults related to technique and temperament. This is especially regrettable since the no advance preparations or conditioning were done at home in terms of the peculiarities and characteristics of the pitches in the selected venues.

Our batsmen — even the most experienced ones — betrayed their bankruptcy on bouncy tracks from the start. The openers who were supposed to set the pace were found especially wanting in coping with swinging deliveries early on in the innings. The common sight of a Pakistani opener playing and missing, time and again, only to get caught behind or in the slips was too much to stomach. The result was that the team often failed to get a much-needed good start. Without this foundation, the burden fell on the middle order. They had to come in early and face the new ball, a job that the openers were meant to do. The middle order, regrettably, failed miserably with the likes of Yusuf Youhana, Inzamamul Haq, Yunus Khan and Abdur Razzaq hardly making any runs. In fact, the late order with Rashid Latif, Waseem Akram, and once even Shoaib Akhtar, had to come in and try and perform a salvage act.

The bowling brigade, particularly the pace battery in our armoury, turned out to be a damp squib, mostly because of lack of discipline. Line and length were often being sacrificed at the expense of speed, and that only helped the opponent batsmen. This bowling was fully exposed in the match against India when Tendulkar, followed by Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Kaif, blunted our much-vaunted attack in all corners of the field. As if all this was not enough, our fielding also was much below par. Catches were dropped at crucial stages and half-attempts were not held onto — the hallmark of a good fielding side. Time and again, the same mistakes were made but there seemed to be no plan, either from the coach or the team management, to halt the decline. Although pitches in South Africa are not known to favour spinners, other sides like Sri Lanka did rather well with slow bowlers. Unfortunately, we had the services of an experienced spinner like Saqlain Mushtaq but he was not properly utilized. His absence in some of the vital matches was beyond comprehension.

Finally, the absence of discipline and determination severely constrained the team’s performance. Intensely competitive World Cup cricket demanded mental toughness and physical fitness at the maximum level. In the Pakistan camp these positive traits of body and mind and spirit were conspicuous by their absence. Without a professional approach and a belief in one’s ability to win, all the potential was wasted. That all this happened despite the services of an expensive foreign coach, psychiatrists, physios and managers is a matter that needs to be looked into from every possible angle. If the services of stars like Imran Khan and Javed Miandad had been secured to motivate and inspire the outfit, perhaps the results could have been different or at least the kind of debacle that happened could have been avoided. The inquiry committee appointed to investigate the main causes of the failure must come up with a comprehensive report to safeguard the future of Pakistan cricket.