Challenges and challenges
Once Raja Pervez Ashraf had won the PPP nomination, his endorsement by the NA was a forgone conclusion. The choice of a candidate was not easy for the PPP. The party needed a thoroughly reliable PPP MNA, capable of taking pressure, willing to go to jail and ready to sacrifice five years of his political career. Wisdom, foresight or good reputation were last among the required qualifications. Zardari being the president, the nominee had to be a non-Sindhi. What is more, he had to win the support of PPP’s coalition partners who keep the party in power. Khurshid Shah was not considered for being a Sindhi. Ahmad Mukhtar was reportedly discarded because of objections from the PML(Q) though Ch Shujaat subsequently denied that his party had vetoed the name. Makhdum Shahabuddin, the top bet for the slot, lost the nomination after warrants of arrest were issued against him in the Ephedrine case. Initially, the MQM opposed Pervez Ashraf and supported Qamar Zaman Kaira but withdrew the “principled” objection after intercession by Altaf Hussain in favour of the former.
Being the second largest party in the NA, the PML(N) tried to fish in the troubled waters by promising support to the non-PPP parties in the ruling alliance if they were to put up a non-PPP joint candidate. The offer had few takers as the party had burnt all bridges with those approached by it. The PML(N) then launched its own candidate who failed to win. JUI leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman submitted his nomination papers for testing the waters but finding that no political bloc was willing to support him announced his withdrawal from the race. His opponents claimed he had withdrawn in return f or unspecified benefits
After assuming the office, Pervez Ashraf – who won with 211 votes – faces serious problems that will test his mettle. Foremost among these are the pressures from the SC. Deciding the case regarding the RPP scam, SC had directed NAB to proceed against all government functionaries, including Raja Pervez Ashraf during whose tenure the RPPs were approved or set up. What is more, he is likely to be told, like his predecessor, to write to the Swiss authorities or face a similar fate. The first thing that the new Prime Minister has to undertake is the formation of the new cabinet to run the day to day affairs of the country. This might turn up to be a tricky issue on account of the demands the allies are likely to put up for cooperation .Pervez Ashraf is expected to deal with some of the most pressing domestic problems and issues that impinge on our relations with the US and India. Among the urgent national issues is power shortage. Gilani had promised to move ahead to provide relief to the common man just before he was sent home by the SC. Then there are important decisions connected with the forthcoming elections that have to be taken in consultation with the opposition. Foremost among these is the appointment of a permanent CEC and a commonly agreed neutral set up. There is also the issue of opening the Nato supply routes, a matter being pressed by the US and its European allies. Pakistan might suffer heavy losses if it does not find an urgent solution to the issue. Islamabad also has to take the required political decisions to make substantive improvement in relations with India. Unless this is done, there is little hope of any worthwhile development during the talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan scheduled next month.
As things stand the government is badly mired in political controversy and legal issues. While announcing the nomination of Pervez Ashraf, PPP leader Khurshid Shah had hinted at early elections. There is a need to enter into talks with the opposition on measures than need to be taken prior to the elections. Keeping in view the ground realities, the sooner the elections are held the better. One hopes the SC would keep the overall situation in view as it deals with the new PM.
Challenges and challenges