Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Another day, another crisis in Pakistan

While the political pundits in the west are narrowly focused on the operations in Afghanistan and the military action in the tribal areas of Pakistan, yet another political crisis is in the making in Pakistan. Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto and the current president of Pakistan, is very close to losing his job as a result of political and constitutional crisis.

The National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which was promulgated by the former dictator General Musharraf, is about to outlive its constitutional half life.  The ordinance absolved Benazir Bhutto, her husband who is the current president, and their political allies of all pending criminal and other charges.  The ordinance therefore allowed Bhutto and others to participate in the political arena in Pakistan.  As a quid pro quo, Bhutto agreed to keep General Musharraf as president.

The current parliament has refused to pass the ordinance to make it a permanent part of the constitution.  And even if the parliament were to pass the ordinance, the higher courts are likely to reverse the parliament's decision, finding it ultra vires to the constitution.

If the National Reconciliation Ordinance is not validated either by the parliament or by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the ordinance will lapse by the end of November.  Those individuals who have directly benefited from the ordinance and were absolved of any charges of corruption, graft, and nepotism would now have to face the music.  The biggest beneficiary of all is the current president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari.

It appears that president Zardari and his clique may have to leave the secure confines of the President House pretty soon.  This political crisis is unfolding at the same time Pakistan is fighting the fight of its survival in the lawless, semiautonomous tribal areas.  The next couple of weeks will decide the short and long-term political dynamics in Pakistan.

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