Posts Tagged ‘ Yusuf Raza Gilani ’

Key Party Rejoins Pakistan’s Coalition

By J David Goodman for The New York Times

A day after Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani announced a rollback of fuel price increases that were deeply unpopular in Pakistan, a major political party said on Friday that it would rejoin the ruling coalition, defusing a tense political standoff and saving Mr. Gilani’s government from potential collapse, news reports said.

The party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, broke with the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party over the weekend in part to protest the price increases and other reforms proposed by the government, causing a political crisis for the prime minister and President Asif Ali Zardari. Opposition parties echoed the call to reverse the increases as well as recent cuts in spending and threatened the government with a three-day deadline before a no-confidence vote.

Political tension deepened on Tuesday with the assassination of Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s most populous region and an ally of Mr. Zardari, because of his support for changes to the country’s blasphemy law.

Raza Haroon, a senior leader in the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, said on Friday that his party had decided to rejoin the ruling coalition for the sake of democracy and the country, The Associated Press reported.

While the government appears to have survived for the moment, it does so at the expense of political and economic reforms encouraged by the United States.

In a meeting with Muttahida Qaumi Movement party officials on Friday, Mr. Gilani said that he would also put off proposed changes promoted by the State Department and the International Monetary Fund to increase tax collection, Reuters reported.

Pakistan, an important American ally, still faces a widening rift between secular and religious forces within the government, even as its army battles Taliban insurgents around the country’s mountainous northwestern border with Afghanistan.

The killing of Mr. Taseer, by a religiously motivated member of his own security staff, raised concerns for the United States and exposed the deep divisions in Pakistan. His killer, who proudly confessed the crime to the police, has been celebrated by many and was greeted by affectionate crowds throwing rose petals both times he appeared in court this week.

But Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said earlier this week that Pakistan’s security relations with the United States would survive the crisis.

Pakistan’s Political Crisis

Reported by Farhana Bokhari for CBS News

Pakistan’s pro-U.S. ruling coalition on Sunday night battled to restore calm across the country’s political landscape after a regional political party allied to president Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) quit at short notice, leaving the PPP in minority in the lower house of parliament, the national assembly.

The Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), a political party mainly representing Pakistanis who migrated from India to Pakistan when the country was created in 1947, withdrew its support to the PPP, reacting to the government’s decision on Saturday to raise gasoline prices.

The move marked the first major upheaval over gasoline prices since they were raised, mainly to be kept in line with global trends. Western diplomats based in Islamabad, reacting to the latest political developments, warned it was still early to tell if Zardari or his handpicked prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, were in danger of being forced out.

There were warnings that the split with the MQM may in the short term completely paralyze the government. Long term consequences are harder to predict. Pakistan has been ruled by its army for more than half the of country’s 63-year existence. Some previous periods of heightened uncertainty have been followed by the military stepping in to fill the void.

General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan’s present military chief, is widely known to be an apolitical figure. A western ambassador based in Islamabad, speaking to CBS News on condition of anonymity, said, “While there are no signs of the military stepping in, you have to remember that previous [military] takeovers have been preceded by fast growing turmoil. Much depends on the way things happen in future.”

For the U.S., mounting political uncertainty in Pakistan is potentially worrying. This has to do with the support that Washington receives from Pakistan in its campaign to defeat Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, as well as periodic worries in the western world over Islamic hardliners making inroads into Pakistan’s politics.

A minister from the PPP who spoke on condition of anonymity to CBS News Sunday said after the split with the MQM was announced, “If a government is weak and struggling for its own survival, how will it be able to pursue interests of other countries, including the U.S.?” The minister added, “Unpopular steps like petroleum prices are forced upon governments through circumstances which are beyond their control.”

A second western diplomat in Islamabad who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity said while Islamic politicians have only pockets of support across Pakistan, “You can never rule out the dangerous possibility of a ground swell in their favor, especially if governments from the political mainstream become weak and unpopular.”

Chinese Premier Visits Pakistan to Reinforce Ties

By Salman Masood for The New York Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao arrived in Islamabad on Friday for a three-day visit that Pakistani officials said was aimed at strengthening the strategic partnership and economic cooperation between the two neighboring countries.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and members of his cabinet welcomed Mr. Wen at Chaklala Air Base in neighboring Rawalpindi on Friday afternoon. A red carpet was rolled out and elaborate ceremonies were held to signify the importance Pakistan attaches to China, which is considered a close ally.

“Friendship with China is a matter of pride for our nation,” Mr. Gilani was quoted as saying by local media as he welcomed his Chinese counterpart.

Apart from holding meetings with Mr. Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari, Mr. Wen was scheduled to address a special joint session of the Parliament on Sunday.

Pakistan’s military ties with China are strong and China has assisted Pakistan in tank production, fighter aircraft manufacturing and naval technology. But since the late 1990s, economic concerns have gained increased importance. Trade and energy have taken precedence in Pakistan’s relations with China.

Mr. Wen was accompanied by 260 business executives.

Pakistani officials say there is a need to enhance trade between the countries that stands around $7 billion a year. But there also are concerns here that the trade deficit is growing heavily in favor of China.

“The relationship is undergoing a qualitative change,” said Mansoor Ahmad, an independent security analyst based in Islamabad. “This change is manifested in China’s relationship with emerging markets and developing countries, which is essentially based on forging and enhancing trade linkages and securing new markets for Chinese investment.”

The Chinese are also cooperating with Pakistan in developing its civil nuclear energy program despite discontent from Washington and New Delhi.

Mr. Wen, the Chinese prime minister, arrived here after completing a two-day tour of India, the estranged neighbor of Pakistan.

China would have to undertake a fine balancing act regarding enhancing its cooperation with both India and Pakistan, said Mr. Ahmad. China and India would forge economic ties despite their continuing territorial disputes, given India’s huge market, he said. Tensions between India and Pakistan worsened after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008, which India and the United States blamed on Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant Islamic group based in Pakistan.

The Pakistan government sees China as a counterweight to India, and officials said that closer Chinese cooperation with India would not affect Pakistani ties with China.

Nonetheless, Mr. Wen’s visit to India this week yielded greater immiediate progress on the economic front than toward resolving the more complicated geostrategic issues.

“In Pakistan’s case, we have already had a longstanding strategic partnership which is now being supplemented by increasing Chinese investment in infrastructural development, civil nuclear cooperation and establishing rail and road linkages between the two countries,” Mr. Ahmad said.

Pakistan’s Strange Response Towards Indian Aid offer

by Omer Farooq Khan for The Times of India

The worst floods in Pakistan’s history provided a good opportunity for both the South Asian nations to come closer. Accepting Indian aid offers half-heartedly and that too after US insistence, Pakistan has given an impression that it is convinced that its policy on India cannot change.

Pakistan’s initial response to the Indian offer of five million dollars was a positive one but then it was unsure how to respond. It took several days for Pakistan to finally accept the offer, saying that the aid had to come through the UN. Now, a total of $25 million Indian assistance for flood relief efforts in Pakistan has to be spent by the UN.

Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had said that the delay was due to the sensitivities involved in the relationship with India. Even, a section of policymakers, conspiracy theorists in media and some India-centric elements within the Pakistani establishment blamed India for opening floodgates of its dam to inundate Pakistan’s cities and towns. While building public opinion, they did not care that their contention was technically wrong. The fact is that the rivers that caused destruction in Pakistan do not originate in India.

Some defence analysts argue that Pakistan’s strange response towards India’s aid offer was meant not to get obliged. “Pakistan reacted politically towards Indian humanitarian gesture. The destruction is so colossal that petty politics must be avoided. Pakistan asks for help and when it is offered by a neighbour, its ego comes its way. The main hurdle was that Pakistan did not want to be obliged,” argues defence analyst General Talat Masood.

Kamran Shafi, Dawn’s columnist says that Indian-centric approach within the security establishment and intelligence agencies was the main predicament that the government accepted Indian offer half heartedly. “Values and wisdom demand that politics must be kept aside at time of tragedy. Pakistan needed to have warmly welcomed neighbour’s goodwill gesture.”

India and Pakistan have made major efforts in recent months to build confidence in their relations, which were badly strained by the Mumbai 2008 terror attacks that India blamed on militants from Pakistan. If Indian civil society, volunteers and NGO’s were allowed to do relief work in the flood affected areas, this could have been an ideal confidence building measure in the relations of the two countries.

Certainly, it would have served the spirit of Thimphu where Pakistani PM Yusuf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh tasked their top diplomats to create CBMs. An opportunity is still not lost if governments, media and civil societies in both the countries come forward and create enough space to use this calamity into an opportunity.

-Editor’s Note for Pakistanis for Peace- The writer is spot on with his analysis of Pakistan’s aid offer from India. During times of a humanitarian crisis of biblical proportions, its political response was petty and irresponsible to its citizens. Furthermore, half heartedly accepting several days after the response does little to build on the goodwill. Either accept it right away with gratitude (our advice) or reject it outright. It did neither and so was ineffective in either cause. The politicians of Pakistan continue to show their incompetence by ineffectively managing the affairs of the country both domestically and internationally.

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