Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Daily Times Editorial Nov 22, 2012

Leaders of Tomorrow The president and co-chairperson as well as the chairperson of the PPP delivered significant addresses at the Pakistan Leaders of Tomorrow conference in the presidency on Tuesday, organized by the ministry of information on the special initiative of the president. President Asif Zardari said that parliament had decided the role of the president’s office. Of late, especially after the Asghar Khan case verdict, the controversy over the role of the president in a parliamentary democracy has found a fresh lease of life. Although the observations of the Supreme Court regarding this issue as part of the judgement in the case has been challenged by the government through a review petition, this has not stopped the controversy from raging in the public space. In a parliamentary democracy, the office of president is largely ceremonial, fulfilling the duties of head of state according to the advice of the government. In our circumstances, since the president is also co-chairperson of the PPP, a clearly political role, the discrepancy between the two roles has revived a ‘debate’. The president reiterated that he had voluntarily surrendered the powers of the president inherited from the past to parliament, including control of the nuclear programme. He stressed the need for the country to fight the extremist mindset that is responsible for incidents such as the attack on Malala Yousafzai, urging his youthful audience to come forward and shoulder this task in the interests of the future of the country. The president went on to explicate his policy thrust since taking office, which included empowering the people and the provinces to strengthen the federation and beat back attempts from any quarter to break up the country. The policy of reconciliation adopted by the PPP-led government, the president emphasised, was not only for domestic purposes but also for peace in the region, including improved relations with India. The president repeated his mantra that the country needed trade not aid in order to improve the economy, whose major crisis was energy. In all these spheres touched on in the president’s address, the appeal was to the youth to assume a leading role for their own and the country’s future. Chairperson of the PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on the other hand focused on the struggle against terrorism, appealing to all the political parties to unite and cooperate on this issue when Pakistan was under attack. All political forces, he said, should stand shoulder to shoulder in this struggle to overcome the blight of terrorism. In an interesting formulation, Bilawal reminded his audience that the PML-N, and particularly its leader Nawaz Sharif, are genuinely allies in supporting democracy despite the fact that they were no longer in a coalition with the PPP and had differences on various issues. He also welcomed Imran Khan’s decision to participate in the coming elections, seeing it as a positive development for the political culture of the country. While the initiative of the president to mobilize the youth can only be lauded, it must be stated with the greatest respect that the concept of empowering the people, the federating units and the modernizing forces in society still largely remains rhetorical and there are still many steps required to change the ground realities. Nevertheless, ideas often presage real change and in this regard too, if the democratic system is consolidated, there is every possibility that these lofty aims too will come to pass with time. Every generation has to prepare to pass on the mantle to the next generation. While our political parties are still largely dynastic (a South Asian political culture), and the grooming of the next generation of sons and daughters of the leading political families of the country is well underway, in politics as much as other aspects of social life, the next generation must be provided with opportunities to come forward and safeguard their own and the country’s future. Given Pakistan’s demographic, a young country’s future lies inevitably in the hands of the youth. The sooner they are enabled, and take on, this onerous responsibility, the better for Pakistan’s future.

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