Thursday, 8 November 2007

The Hijacking (Part II)

I had written yesterday about the how BB seemed to be trying to hijack the pro-democracy movement for her own ends. Its worthwhile trying to reconstruct what was going on in Islamabad yesterday. Bhutto had denied that she would be meeting with the government, but rather, had gone to Islamabad to meet with pro-democracy opposition groups at a meeting of the ARD.

The ARD was originally formed by political parties in opposition to military rule. Its main components were the PPP, the PML-N and the MMA. Imran Khan of the TPI was also a highly visible member and there were a host of minor parties involved. Its purpose was to coordinate the parties' opposition to Musharaf and help bring democracy back to Pakistan. However, it had little success in doing this. Early on, the MMA broke ranks to help Musharaf consolidate his grip on power in return for concessions in the NWFP (whose assembly they dominated). The MMA itself was a coalition of Islamic parties whose two major members were the JI and JUI(F). The JUI(F) in particular, with its deep links to the Taliban and the military was often wooed away to support the military government in parliament.

Once Musharaf and the ruling PML-Q started facing serious internal opposition and losing popularity, it needed to make overtures to another political party to shore up its position. Many in the PML-Q hierarchy favoured an alliance with the PML-N, but the Americans were known to favour Benazir Bhutto and the PPP. With the prospect of a political opening and the whitewashing of her corrupt past open to her, Bhutto broke ranks with the ARD and opened negotiations with the military. With the PPP and JUI(F) openly working with the military government, the ARD seemed moribund and the PML-N and other parties formed the umbrella APDM (the All Parties Democratic Movement) to take up its mantle.

Yesterday though, it seems as if the PPP has seen fit to revive the ARD. The question is, who was actually there at this meeting? The BBC reports that the PTI, the PML-N and the MMA were not represented at the meeting. This leaves a string of very minor players. BB used the absence of these major components of the ARD to boot out the chairperson, the president and the secretary general of the ARD (all in prison, in exile, or in hiding from what I can gather) and have herself appointed chairperson and her lackey, Makhdoom Amin Fahim appointed President. A Qazi Abdul Qadeer Khamosh of the Jamiat Ahle Hadith, an obscure religious party, was made the Secretary General.

In a sense, the ARD has now become composed of those parties that are looking to form the next government in partnership with Musharaf. As this report notes, the ARD had become moribund ever since some of its components had abandoned a policy of cooperation against the military regime in favour of talks for individual gain.

The PML-N, the MMA and the Awami Jamhoori Tehrik, an alliance of left-wing parties, have all offered to support the PPP's call for protests IF the PPP breaks off its talks with the government, an offer which BB has rejected. In Karachi, the Sindh Taraqi Passand Party (STP), whose chairman is in jail, the Awami National Party (ANP), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Pakhtoon Khwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) have all called for the PPP and JUI(F) to unite with them against the government instead of working for their own (and the General's) benefit.

But that is looking increasingly unlikely. Also in Islamabad yesterday, the PPP and JUI(F) held talks where they "dwelt on the national political scenario and agreed to continue deliberations for exploring the possibilities of joint working in future". In other words, started divvying up ministerial posts in their coming administration.

Of course BB also had to take the time out to pay a visit to the American ambassador, no doubt, to express her satisfaction with how everything is working out.

And if there should be any doubt about BB's ascendency in the current political climate, she also seems to have managed to bring about the removal of the Director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), General Ejaz Shah, who is known to be the man who cobbled together the PML(Q). He is said to be particularly close to the Chaudhrys, and his removal would suggest the final burial of their ambitions.

Meanwhile, the oppositionless assembly rubber-stamps Emergency rule and the government considers removing the Supreme Courts' suo moto powers through a constitutional amendment.

Finaly I'll leave you with an exceptionally outstanding post on the American handling of the current situation in Pakistan.

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