On many levels the Zardari government, now less than a year away from full-term, has been doing quite well – with no will to solve the energy crisis but passing significant legislation that protects democracy, as opposed to military rule, in Pakistan.
The literal reporting by the international press of Pakistan’s prime ministerial woes – Yousuf Raza Gilani, after the longest PM-ship ever in Pakistan’s history was forced to stand down for refusing to write to the Swiss authorities over corruption charges relating to Zardari, his initial replacement Makhdoom Shahabuddin was blown straight out of the water when a judge ordered his arrest on illegal drug imports, but Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has now been appointed – has done nothing to tell the real story.
For that you will have to read Mohammed Hanif in the Guardian, about the only voice of clarity available to UK readers.
To lose one prime minister may be regarded as a misfortune but to have two headed off looks like the military have been up to their old tricks. Caretaker governments were the stuff of military intervention after they had despatched civilian governments in what Musharraf called in his memoirs “that dreadful decade of democracy”. This is not quite a caretaker government, but as Hanif describes, the military are behind a revitalised supreme court that in the last six months has been in the business of attacking the Zardari government, while leaving military wrong-doings, such as questions over the assassination of Salmaan Taseer, governor of Punjab, and of Shahbaz Bhatti, Christian minister for minorities, and the death of journalist Saleem Shahzad, on the back burner.
In mid-June the judicial commission tasked with looking into Memogate, the “documentation” provided by nude wrestling adjudicator Mansoor Ijaz that the Zardari government through its civilian ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani had tried to move against the military upheld Ijaz’s spurious claims.
It is not a coincidence that a week before the commission was due to announce its findings Asma Jahangir, Pakistan’s leading human rights barrister, chief counsel for Husain Haqqani and contributor to the New Statesman, was made aware of a plan to assassinate her.
Pakistan’s leading liberal daily, Tribune, ran the following editorial in mid-June:
It is in the nature of those [the military] opposed to civilian rule to change the subject from their misdeeds. In this case, the distraction was memogate and the scapegoat was Husain Haqqani.
Twittersphere followed up: “Shame on a country which declares its doctors, diplomats, poets and scholars as traitors, and garlands jihadist killers and eulogises them”. “Husain Haqqani is not a traitor he is a patriotic Pakistani. Real traitors are those acquit jihadis and penalise liberals”.
That, at present and until it does its proper job and brings the military under the rule of law too, looks like the supreme court.