MonitorsPublished on Aug 18, 2008
After eight years of ruling Pakistan, former Army Chief and President Pervez Musharraf stepped down on August 18, 2008. It was amidst growing speculation and doubt that Musharraf, facing a possible impeachment in the National Assembly, announced the decision to quit in his last Address to the Nation.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 33

< class="maroontitle">Musharraf steps down

After eight years of ruling Pakistan, former Army Chief and President Pervez Musharraf stepped down on August 18, 2008. It was amidst growing speculation and doubt that Musharraf, facing a possible impeachment in the National Assembly, announced the decision to quit in his last Address to the Nation. His exit from the scene was, however, long expected, particularly after he was responsible for a series of blunders beginning with the sacking of the Supreme Court Chief Justice, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, in March 2007. Although he had reluctantly given up his uniform in November last and had agreed to hold elections, exiting from active politics was not on the list of things Musharraf had planned to do after becoming the President. During the last few days of his regime, it began to dawn on Musharraf that his traditional supporters in Washington, Riyadh and Rawalpindi too had developed second thoughts of his continuance.

Musharraf’s exit, however, did not leave Pakistan in any better position in terms of political and economic stability. The two political partners, PPP and PMLN, remained distrustful of each other’s move despite achieving the singular objective which brought the traditional rivals together after the February 18 elections failed to give both a decisive majority to rule. With one bone of contention gone, the coalition partners remained rigid on their individual stand on the restoration of judiciary and the presidentship. PPP’s decision to nominate Asif Ali Zardari as the President did not help the matter either as PMLN was keen on nominating, as Nawaz Sharif said, `eminent persons of national choice`.

After week-long intense bilateral and trilateral parleys, the newly formed alliance of three major political parties- the CPN-Maoist, CPN-UML and Madhesi Janadhkiar Forum (MJF) reached an understanding on power sharing modalities and distribution of ministerial portfolios. According to the agreement, the Maoists would get Defence, Finance, Information and Communication, Commerce and Supply, Labour and Employment, Peace and Reconstruction and Housing and Urban Planning ministries.  The ministries of  Home, Local Development, Forest and Soil Conservation, Industry, Youth and Sports ministries would go to UML while MJF, would get Foreign Affairs, Agriculture and Cooperatives, Physical Planning and one more ministry, which is yet to be finalized. With the Nepali Congress not joining the Maoists-led government and the Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party (TMLP) opting to stay out, the remaining four ministries would be distributed among the CPN-United, CPN-ML, Janamorcha Nepal and Sadbhawana Party each. However, the parties are yet to reach a consensus on the post of Deputy Prime Minister as both the UML and MJF have staked claimed for the post.
The parties have also drafted and agreed upon the Common Minimum Program (CMP), to assist the government. As per the CMP, the parties have agreed to settle the integration of People's Liberation of Army (PLA) within six months and abrogate all unequal treaties. The CMP would also guide the government to strengthen democracy, take the peace process to its logical end and foremost bring economic and development reforms.

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Pakistan promises ammunition

Pakistan had promised `one ship-load of wherewithal every ten days` in the coming months, to help Sri Lanka Army’s fight-to-finish push against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eeelam.(LTTE). Media reports said the Sri Lankan armed forces were preparing for their final push against LTTE. Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa stated that Kilinochchi, the LTTE headquarters, would be freed by the end of December. Such an intensive military operation would need large quantities of ammunition for an effective and decisive offensive. Colombo traditionally has been accessing weapons and ammunition from China, Pakistan, and the East European countries. One newspaper said the Pakistan’s promised help was the result of the personal rapport between Army Commander Sarath Fonseka and Pakistan Army’s Chief of Staff Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Kayani has assured that he would divert the ammunition from his Army’s own war reserves rather than await the ordnance factories to make the delivery. Pakistan had earlier helped Sri Lanka with Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers and ammunition in 2000 when the Sri Lankan forces were under an LTTE siege in Jaffna. Significantly, early this month, Pakistan had offered Sri Lanka a defence pact to strengthen the military cooperation between both the countries.

< class="maroontitle">Uncertainty looms over Bangla Politics

Uncertainty returned to Bangladesh after fresh corruption charges were filed against Sheikh Hasina and a bail was denied to Khaleda Zia.  The Anti-Corruption Commission has formally charged Awami League (AL) Chief and former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with a case of corruption in the MiG-29 deal. Hasina was released in June this year after the government reached an understanding with her party. The new chargesheet would certainly upset this equation and vitiate the atmosphere. The denial of a bail to Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chief and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia later in the week has only raised doubts and uncertainties about the December election. BNP leaders view the new move as a bid to delay her release. The party workers took out a march on August 21. 

< class="maroontitle">DRP coming to terms with reality

The ruling DRP’s consent to the participation of President Gayoom in the televised debate augur well for the impending elections. The single largest party which has an uninterrupted stint of more then 30 years was now readying itself to accept and face the challenges thrown at them by their detractors. Another surprising move was made by the President when he nominated a lawyer, Ahmed Muiz, as the Prosecutor General. Muiz has defended Opposition political activists in the court on several occasions. The decision  of the President will take the sting out of  the Opposition’s allegations of partiality and nepotism against Gayoom. But, Gayoom, who is not keen on letting the power slip from him,  has made a move in the Majlis (Parliament) to bring the entire range of government officials under his control by excluding some sections of the government employees from the Civil Services Act 2008.        

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

      • Anjali Sharma                 – Sri Lanka, Maldives
      • Joyeeta Bhattacharjee – Bangladesh
      • Paul Soren                       – Nepal, Bhutan
      • Kaustav Chakrabarti     – Pakistan


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