Pakistan Moves toward Political, If Not Economic, Stability

Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, July 2012 | Go to article overview

Pakistan Moves toward Political, If Not Economic, Stability


An estimate of an area of key current significance

PAKISTAN, WITH ITS POLITICAL STAND-OFF with the US Government now at least superficially resolved - and with Coalition convoys once again resuming logistical activities between the port of Karachi and bases in Afghanistan - had, by the end of July 2012, begun to re-build its economic base. Pakistan's economy had suffered a series of blows from internal insurgency - the reaction to the use of the military in the Tribal Areas at the insistence of the US - as well as from paralysis in the energy sector, and the impact of el Niño- related flooding from 2010 onwards.

But, at least, with the US literally out of the political equation in Pakistan for much of 2012, the Pakistan Government had been free to put its domestic political house in order in a way which now seems set to consolidate the power of Pres. Asif Ali Zardari.

But the Government of Pakistan has been operating under strong pressure from the Supreme Court for the past year or more. Long-standing Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was forced to resign on June 20, 2012, over contempt of court charges, and his successor, Raja Pervez Ashraf, began to face the same pressure from the Supreme Court. The result was likely to be that, when the pressures must be addressed, the Government of Prime Minister Ashraf would also resign, and the President will install a neutral, interim Prime Minister for 90 days while a new general election was organized.

This would mean new parliamentary elections for the National Assembly would be held just before the end of 2012.

The Supreme Court on July 25, 2012, gave Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf another two weeks to write a letter to Swiss authorities asking them to re-open a corruption case against Pres. Zardari, after Attorney-General Irfan Qadir told the Court that the order was "not implementable" because a serving President had immunity from prosecution. All of this has been a stalling game, allowing the governing Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to ensure that it could prevail in a new election, and then - when Pres. Zardari's term in the Presidency expired in 2013 - the PPP-dominated National Assembly and the strongly PPP-dominated provincial assemblies could vote Pres. Zardari a further five-year term in office.

Significantly, then, this current train of events was likely to bring about a re-election of the currently-governing coalition led by the PPP, which - it was clear by the end of July 20 1 2 - was benefitting from a fracturing of support for the opposition parties. Ironically, the emergence of former cricket star Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) political party has been pulling support not from the PPP base but from the main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has thus seen his chances of sweeping the PPP from power disappear.

Significantly, on July 19, 2012, the leader of the Opposition (and senior PML-N official) in the National Assembly Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan claimed that the PTI was a "test tube party", a brainchild of former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, who retired from the Army and from the ISI in March 2012. …

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