Mushar­raf’s new ‘grand al­liance’ al­ready crum­bling

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL - SIB KAIFEE

IS­LAM­ABAD: Pak­istan’s for­mer pres­i­dent and army chief, Gen. Pervez Mushar­raf, is al­ready fac­ing set­backs in his am­bi­tious plan to break the sta­tus quo of the coun­try’s dom­i­nant po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

On Fri­day, Mushar­raf an­nounced a “grand al­liance” of 23 par­ties un­der the ban­ner Pak­istan Awami It­te­had (PAI) to chal­lenge the main par­ties at next year’s polls, but the very next day there was se­ri­ous doubt cast on the le­git­i­macy of Mushar­raf’s claims when Pak­istan Awami Tehrik (PAT) and Ma­jlis Wah­dat-eMus­limeen (MWM), both of which Mushar­raf had named in his al­liance, de­nied all as­so­ci­a­tion with it.

“No one has con­sulted us about an al­liance, nor have any of our lead­ers at­tended meet­ings of any po­lit­i­cal or elec­toral al­liance," MWM spokesman Al­lama Mukhtar Imami told The News.

Mushar­raf claimed the al­liance con­sisted of his own All Pak­istan Mus­lim League (APML), the PAT, the Sunni It­te­had Coun­cil, the MWM, Pak­istan Sunni Tehreek, Mus­lim Con­fer­ence (Kash­mir), PML-Junejo, PML-Coun­cil, PML-Na­tional, Awami League, Pak Mus­lim Al­liance, Pak­istan Maz­door It­te­had, Con­ser­va­tive Party, Muha­jir It­te­had Tehreek, Pak­istan In­sani Huqooq Party, Mil­lat Party, Jamiat Ulma Pak­istan (Ni­azi Group), Aam Loug Party, Aam Admi Party, Pak­istan Ma­sawat Party, Pak­istan Mi­nor­ity Party, Jamiat Mashaikh Pak­istan, So­cial Jus­tice Demo­cratic Party.

Sunni It­te­had Coun­cil Chair­man Sahibzada Hamid Raza said that his party's al­liance with Awami It­te­had “is not meant for the elec­tion” and that his party would cam­paign on a sep­a­rate plat­form. But he did not say his party was not part of the al­liance, nor did he ex­plain why it had joined the al­liance if it in­tended to cam­paign sep­a­rately.

Mushar­raf, 74, an­nounced the al­liance via a video-link from Dubai, where he has resided for most of the past year af­ter his name was re­moved from Pak­istan’s exit con­trol list fol­low­ing a stalled trea­son trial.

The rul­ing Pak­istan Mus­lim League-Nawaz party im­peached Mushar­raf un­der Ar­ti­cle 6 for twice ab­ro­gat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion — a charge of trea­son pun­ish­able by death — by im­pos­ing mar­tial law in 1999 and a state of emer­gency in 2007 in an ef­fort to cur­tail the grow­ing power of the ju­di­ciary and con­sol­i­date his power.

Mushar­raf claimed that all par­ties had given him their man­date to chair the PAI, and that Iqbal Dar had been ap­pointed as the party’s sec­re­tary-gen­eral. Mushar­raf also ex­tended in­vi­ta­tions to join the al­liance to Pak­istan Mus­lim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and Pak­istan Tehreek-e-In­saf (PTI). The lat­ter is led by cricket le­gend-turned-politi­cian, Im­ran Khan, and is thought to pose a se­ri­ous threat to the rul­ing PML-N in next year’s elec­tion.

Some an­a­lysts be­lieve the mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment is back­ing Mushar­raf’s al­liance, in the hope of di­vid­ing the rul­ing party’s vote bank, par­tic­u­larly in Pun­jab. The for­ma­tion of a coali­tion gov­ern­ment would bet­ter serve the es­tab­lish­ment’s in­ter­ests than a sin­gle party con­sol­i­dat­ing power, they say.

“Mushar­raf’s al­liance has been formed by the es­tab­lish­ment to counter the PML-N in Pun­jab where 60 per­cent of seats are al­lo­cated,” said po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Shi­raz Khan. He told Arab News that the prov­ince is “the bat­tle­field” for po­lit­i­cal par­ties, and that who­ever wins in Pun­jab “wins Pak­istan.”

But an­a­lyst Ab­dul Wadood Qureshi said the al­liance posed no threat to the sta­tus quo “and will have no im­pact on the elec­tions.”

“These par­ties can’t even get 100 votes,” he told Arab News. “They are no­bod­ies in the po­lit­i­cal arena and their party work­ers couldn’t even be­come district coun­selors, let alone MPs.”

APML Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Dr. Mo­hammed Aj­mal an­nounced that the al­liance would hold a con­ven­tion in Lahore, fol­lowed by a “huge rally” in the south­ern port city of Karachi where the Pak­istan Peo­ple’s Party (PPP) and the once-pow­er­ful Mut­tahida Qaumi Move­ment (MQM) wield con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence. He added that if the MQM and its off­shoot, the Pak Sarza­meen Party (PSP) were to join the al­liance, then Mushar­raf would sup­port and lead them.

The ouster of for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif has ap­par­ently em­bold­ened Mushar­raf, who promised to re­turn to Pak­istan at “an ap­pro­pri­ate time” that would not in­ter­fere with “the ac­count­abil­ity process” which Sharif, some mem­bers of his fam­ily, and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ishaq Dar cur­rently face over al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion stem­ming from the Panama Pa­pers leak. Mushar­raf said that since the coun­try’s courts are not “un­der Nawaz Sharif’s con­trol any­more,” he was will­ing to re­turn to the coun­try and face the charges against him, dis­play­ing sur­pris­ing faith in the ju­di­cial sys­tem he set about dis­man­tling dur­ing his pres­i­dency.

Those charges in­clude in­volve­ment in the as­sas­si­na­tion of for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Be­nazir Bhutto in 2007. In Au­gust, a spe­cial court de­clared Mushar­raf a fugi­tive for his fail­ure to ap­pear in court in that case.

Qureshi, for one, doubts the for­mer pres­i­dent will re­turn to Pak­istan.

“He is un­likely to come back due to the court cases,” he told Arab News. “The army doesn’t want Mushar­raf to re­turn out of fear that he could be im­pris­oned. This is all (an act). The army won’t let him re­turn.”

But po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Khan warns that noth­ing is set in stone when it comes to the coun­try’s com­plex po­lit­i­cal arena. “The his­tory of Pak­istan shows that any­thing is pos­si­ble with the pas­sage of time,” he said.

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