Comments (PART-II)

Zahid Malik

Monday, March 22, 2010 – I little imagined the popular response of approval that I have received on my comment on the performance of Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani that appeared in all the five editions of this newspaper published in Pakistan on March 1. Even more pleasantly surprising has been the enthusiastic endorsement of a large number of overseas Pakistanis from amongst a quarter million readers of our e-newspaper on website throughout the world. It showed that most of the people share the sentiments that I expressed for the Prime Minister and his deft and mature handling of the affairs of our State.

I may sound a bit boastful but the fact is that visitations to our website is larger than that of any of our Englishcontemporaries, and that at any time of day some 500 browsers are accessing the Observer website. Among the many comments they have sent me some merit to be shared with our readers. Writing from the United States Dr. Jamshed Ahmad has expressed appreciation to the Pakistan Observer for projecting Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani in the objective perspective of the services he has rendered as Prime Minister. The fair comment would also help readers abroad to form a correct opinion of the country’s leadership, and earn respectability for Pakistan.

A retired civil servant settled in the USA said that unbiased projection of the leadership was a healthy trend as through this the country was the ultimate gainer. “And this is how it should be,” he remarked. An Oman based Pakistani Javed Nawaz, who is President of Pakistan-Oman Friendship Association, admired the frank comment and went on to suggest thatcontributions and achievements of Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani needed to be elaborated further, particularly the way he astutely handled the most difficult and potentially dangerous crises in the past two years, successfully steering the ship of the State out of troubled waters with his cool, serene and gentle style of governance, thus emerging by performance as the tallest of leaders.

As gratifying were reactions and comments of prominent Pakistanis in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia I met at a State function in Riyadh which was inaugurated by Khadim Al-Harmain-Al-Sharifain, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud on March 17. Several of them sought me out to convey their concurrence with my realistic appreciation of the person and performance of our Prime Minister. I formed the distinct impression that they regard Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani as Mr. Right at this critical juncture of the history of Pakistan.

Coincidentally, three days from today on March 25 when Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani would be entering his third year in office as Prime Minister he would be justified to feel a sense of satisfaction and pride for his remarkable achievements in maintaining open dialogue with all political parties on basis of courtesy and cordiality towards their leaders, scrupulous avoidance of biting comments and successful persuasion of their cooperation in finding consensus solution to outstanding and emergent political and economic problems. The package of constitutional amendments has been all but agreed and we can look forward to return to the pristine text that was approved by the elected representatives of the people.

Prime Minister Gilani was entitled to the satisfaction he expressed two weeks ago over achieving important economic targets. As a result the economy is back on the path of stability and growth, the current account deficit has narrowed down significantly as compared to the preceding year, and foreign exchange reserves are climbing to 15 billion dollars and record remittances from workers abroad testify to return of confidence among the expatriates in the economy of the country.

Worthy of great credit was the well-planned and decisive handling of the war against terror, expulsion of Taliban terrorists from Swat and South Waziristan and progress towards return and rehabilitation of over two million displaced persons.

Yusuf Raza Gilani’s record during these two years inspires confident hope that during the next three years he is capable of discovering consensual ways out of the maze of problems accumulated during years of dictatoship. I am of the considered opinion that Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani’s real mettle was tested on the political front and so far his acts have proved that he possesses all the qualities that a genuine statesman-like politician of his stature needs.

Except for the initial few months when PPP and PML-N enjoyed the honeymoon in the coalition government at the Centre, the period since has not been the proverbial bed of roses. Dismissal of Punjab Government and imposition of Governor’s Rule was the first pebble in the otherwise calm pond of politics. The storm it triggered was contained almost exclusively by the Prime Minister’s personal interaction with Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif. There are some forces in the ruling PPP that keep on inflicting self-damage by mounting unnecessary attacks here and there but as pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition Ch. Nisar Ali, during his speech in the National Assembly on March 11, Prime Minister Gilani has constantly poured water on fire.

Though Mian Nawaz Sharif has repeatedly stated that he would be the first to challenge anybody destabilizing the democratic set-up, yet vested interests, seasonal political birds and some sections of the media frequent predict that the days of the Government were numbered. They even go to the extent that the lawyers’ long march and subsequent Supreme Court verdict on NRO would put a final seal on the fate of the Government, and build theories that the President and the Prime Minister did not see eye to eye, the President and the Army Chief had developed differences, issue of appointment of judges would bring Executive and the Judiciary to a head on collision.

On the external front, the most dangerous time was after the 26th November 2008 terrorists attack in Mumbai and there was a real danger of a war between the two nuclear armed neighbours. Also, the controversial Kerry-Lugar Bill and thereservations of the Army expressed through an ISPR press release gave a lot of meat to the conspiracy theorists that the incumbent Government lacked capacity to deal with these issues.

I feel no hesitation to say that with far-sightedness, vision and a clear sense of direction to deal with crisis after crisis, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani successfully handled all these, and many other, challenges with extreme patience and masterly strokes. He got the judges restored in consultation with the President, held regular meetings with the President and the Chief of Army Staff to keep the channels of communications open and that gave a clear signal to every one that the going was not as difficult as some were predicting. He called an All Parties Conference (APC) following the footsteps of the founder of the PPP Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who carried out similar exercise before going to Simla for talks with Indira Gandhi, to give a message across the border that the entire Pakistani nation despite political divide was united when it came to the security, territorial integrity and honour of their motherland. Through the debate in Parliament, he was successful in conveying the message to the Americans about the concerns in Parliament and the Establishment regarding US policy towards Pakistan and that aid tied to tough and humiliating conditions was not acceptable to his Government.

These are no meagre achievements in any way in a very difficult environment. Yet in my humble opinion, his biggest success was the functioning of democratic system in an orderly manner which he ensured by giving due importance to Parliament, maintained a working relationship with the Opposition and other key organs of the State and enjoyed full confidence of the party Co-Chairperson and President Asif Ali Zardari. Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani is the first Prime Minister of the country, who is giving due importance to Parliament. He regularly attends sessions of the National Assembly, responds personally to questions and points raised by the Members and makes important announcements on the floor of the House.

The way Prime Minister Gilani cares about interests of the country, one can proudly claim that he is really made for Pakistan. He has also acquired an exalted position because of his reputation as Mr. Clean and this is important in the backdrop of accusing fingers being raised by some quarters to different directions.

It is quite evident that the office of the Prime Minister would emerge stronger and powerful if the proposed constitutional amendments get through Parliament. I would, therefore, expect of him to gear up for delivery and come up to the expectations of the poor masses, who now want the Government to concentrate on pinching issues like price hike, unemployment, poverty, disease and illiteracy. In any case, I wish the elegant Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani well and I would suggest that keeping in view his immense popularity and respectability among the Overseas Pakistanis the Prime Minister may please make it convenient to address these Pakistanis whenever he is on a State visit abroad.

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