Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Daily Times editorial March 7, 2012

Post-Senate elections scenario

In its first meeting after success in the Senate elections, the PPP’s core committee first had in-house discussions on a host of political issues, but its main concentration was on the candidates for Chairman and Deputy Chairman Senate. The PPP leadership then had consultations with its allies. The media carried a report yesterday that PPP Senator and Leader of the House Nayyar Bokhari had been named as Chairman Senate to replace Farooq Naik. The latter will, as part of an anticipated cabinet reshuffle, probably be reappointed Law Minister. The Deputy Chairman slot will likely go to one of the PPP’s coalition partners. It has been a tradition that the Deputy Chairman is usually taken from Balochistan, but after outgoing Deputy Chairman Jan Jamali opted to return to his home base, possibly in anticipation of running for a seat in the general elections, it remains to be seen whether the tradition will remain intact. The negotiations and consultations over the Senate Chairman and Deputy Chairman and a possible reshuffle of the cabinet that might see changes in faces as well as portfolios reflect an attempt to take account of the changes that have occurred after the recent by-polls and the Senate elections, in both of which the PPP and its allies feel electorally vindicated. The air of uncertainty that had dogged the footsteps of this government since it came to power four years ago seems to have dissipated and this boost is reflected in the reports yesterday that President Asif Ali Zardari has suggested to the PPP and its coalition allies that the general elections should be scheduled for March 2013. The coalition allies did not seem to have any objection and reiterated their solidarity with the PPP. The move makes sense from the ruling coalition’s point of view since it ensures that their five year tenure is completed and garners for them the advantages (and some might argue disadvantages) of incumbency.
The fact that the present dispensation has managed the second Senate elections since it came to power goes to the credit of the government and is an indicator that however haltingly and contradictorily, the democratic system restored in 2008 is consolidating itself. The wisdom seems to have sunk in generally, but most importantly in the minds of our security establishment, that the advantages of democracy far outweigh its blemishes and certainly trump any extra-constitutional praetorian dispensation. Our history is witness to that. Every military regime in our chequered history has proved a disaster waiting to happen, a disaster that subsequent elected governments then have to deal with as a legacy. The fifth presidential address to parliament is now also on the cards after the Senate is reconstituted by March 12.
The only remaining anomalies in an otherwise smooth Senate electoral process are the loss of what was considered a sure shot seat by the PPP in Punjab and the controversy over the Balochistan Senate elections. The party has set up a committee headed by Faryal Talpur to investigate the Punjab seat loss issue and report back within a day or two. As far as the Balochistan Senate elections are concerned, the suspended result that emanated from complaints about the procedural aspects of the election has yet to find resolution. The result of the election was withheld by the Balochistan election commission pending a recount in Islamabad. The provincial election commission announced the upholding of the original results, according to it after a recount. However, this is disputed by the aggrieved party, the PML-N, whose case is that a wrong tick on one of the ballot papers by one of its members was rejected while a similar mistake by a PPP member was accepted. They have vowed to appeal the decision to the Election Commissioner first and if they do not find satisfaction there, the Supreme Court. These anomalies do need to be sorted out in the interests of fairness and justice, but they will not have any material effect on the shape and configuration of the new upper house.

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