What lies ahead?

January 15, 2012


EVERY week is seemingly 'make or break' week in Pakistan. But last week and the one ahead could be crucial for the democratic process. Looking back, the last week ended on a relatively peaceable note with the civilian and military leadership gathering in the same room in front of the cameras for a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet and the prime minister expressing his support for the armed forces while calling on all institutions to respect the domains of one another.

Come Sunday, the prime minister didn't take the bait thrown his way by reporters' questions and simply stated that as PM he was only answerable to parliament, sidestepping queries about a report, already denied by the presidency, that the army chief wanted the prime minister to either retract or clarify his remarks against the army leadership. This does not mean the crisis in civil-military relations is set to subside.

It will take many more confidence-building measures for the mistrust to be removed, if it in fact can be eliminated at such an advanced stage into the relationship between the present civilian and army leadership. The memo affair hangs heavy over the skewed relationship between the political government and the army.In the week ahead, much of the focus will be on how the judicial commission's inquiry into the Mansoor Ijaz memo progresses and what happens in the Supreme Court with respect to the implementation of the NRO judgment. A re-escalation in tensions between the government and the judiciary is not inevitable. From the PPP camp there have been noises that the party may agree to write the letter to Swiss authorities that the SC has adamantly demanded in a case pertaining to money stashed in Swiss accounts that allegedly belong to President Zardari. If the court also shows some flexibility, something it has graciously done on numerous occasions despite warning of dire consequences, the country may begin to limp away from the present state of elevated tensions.

So far, what the country has seen amounts to one step forward, two back and then two steps forward, one back. The net result: the country is near paralysed politically. Having seemingly moved little in any direction, be it forwards towards a permanent resolution of the crisis or backwards towards a tragic mistake by one or more sides, perhaps now is the time for the government to step up and provide an authoritative road map to get democracy back on track.