Nevertheless, like many Pakistanis, one has hoped that during their years in exile a modicum of common sense might have got knocked into their rigid mindsets. Cynical as I may be, Shahbaz Sharif’s latest pronouncements do provide some rays of (possibly vain?) hope.
Here are some of the sensible things that he appears to have recently uttered:
- The army's interference in politics must be curtailed.
- The only way to preclude the army's interference in politics is a pre-election one-point understanding among all parties to form a consensus national government which is to be allowed to complete its tenure without interference or interruption.
- If the PPP gets a majority in the next parliament the PML(N) will accept Ms Bhutto as leader of the consensus national government.
- The consensus government would be entrusted to work on a pre-agreed national agenda aimed at ensuring the integrity of the federation and the restoration of people's faith in politicians. This requires among other things a collective endeavour to root out corruption. The judiciary and the members of the army will be included in the accountability process.
- The defence budge should be debated in parliament.
Shahbaz Sharif seems to be set on the right path but as a Nation editorial pointed out:
Unless there is an understanding on certain basics among the parties, it would be difficult to bar extra-constitutional interference in national politics. Attempts at dividing the parties have succeeded in the past because of the shortsightedness and intolerance on the part of the political leadership. The proposals by Mian Shahbaz would indicate there is an awareness that this has to end. How deep is the realisation, particularly in the case of the two mainstream parties, will become clear in the next few months as they take vital decisions.Your Blogger couldn’t have put it better.
Agreeing on a consensus national government requires give and take involving sacrifices. To overcome traditional rivalries and share power requires a level of maturity yet to be displayed by these parties. Unless the entire opposition, the ARD, MMA, and those outside it are willing to cooperate, holding free and fair elections and the subsequent handing over of full powers to the elected government will remain doubtful. Even after successfully overcoming these hurdles, parties will have to strengthen the federation, buttress an independent judiciary, ensure a depoliticised bureaucracy and provide an honest administration to be able to win the confidence of the people that alone can guarantee that there is no acceptance of extraneous intervention in the political process. In the meanwhile any move by a party that creates the perception of brokering a private deal over and above the others with the powers that be can wreck the process.