Monday, March 01, 2010 – Comments
It is fresh in our memory that when Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani was sent to jail by General Pervez Musharraf, Mr Asif Ali Zardari, who himself was under detention, commented that Musharraf should know he was sending a future President of Pakistan behind bars. The comment proved prophetic although Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s martyrdom necessitated Mr. Gilani’s choice for the high office Mr. Zardari assumed would be occupied by her.
Fortunately, Mr. Gilani possesses rare qualities of meticulous courtesy and spirit of compromise necessary for indispensablecoexistence and cooperation between the two major political parties in the country, and scrupulous avoidance of collision course between the executive and judicial branches of government. He has kept all doors open and taken initiatives for consultation and dialogue imperative at a time when the country is burdened with innumerable social and economic problems, not to mention the menace posed by extremism and militancy.
Political leaders are judged by their ability to deliver in difficult environment. By that criterion Mr. Gilani has many achievements to his credit despite the continuing problems of governance that are partly a legacy of chequered politics and authoritarian rule over decades. At critical junctures in the past two years, Mr. Gilani has risen to the occasion as Chief Executive and dealt with critical issues in a calm, calculated and deft political manner, fully justify his choice as the chief executive.
No doubt the leadership in the political framework requires a focus on the long-term good of a country, above and ahead of any personal short-term gains. Wise political leadership requires a combination of charisma, veracity and uprightness, integrity, trustworthiness, courage, and discipline as well as the ability to assess a situation and make a decision based on what would be the best for the country. Time has shown that Premier Gilani has all these rare qualities and characteristics and even more.
I chose this topic for today’s comment because Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani will be completing his two years in office as Prime Minister this month. During this period he took a number of important decisions which saved the state institutions including restoration of deposed judges, united the people in the war against terrorism, promoted political reconciliation when it appeared that the situation had reached a point of no return, created harmony between the Federation and the Provinces, gave legitimate rights to the Provinces and handled the difficult situations in the wake of devastating developments in our immediate neighbourhood. It is because of the superb, ingenious and fabulous achievements that the Prime Minister has to his credit and thus Mr. Gilani, who is five feet eight inches has emerged double the natural height.
because Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani will be completing his two years in office as Prime Minister this month. During this period he took a number of important decisions which saved the state institutions including restoration of deposed judges, united the people in the war against terrorism, promoted political reconciliation when it appeared that the situation had reached a point of no return, created harmony between the Federation and the Provinces, gave legitimate rights to the Provinces and handled the difficult situations in the wake of devastating developments in our immediate neighbourhood. It is because of the superb, ingenious and fabulous achievements that the Prime Minister has to his credit and thus Mr. Gilani, who is five feet eight inches has emerged double the natural height.
At the outset, let me say that Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, scion of the most respected Syed family of Multan, navigated the ship of the country successfully in difficult economic situation, deteriorating law and order and political polarization, a legacy of the previous government. Many, in response to this comment, may venture to argue about weaknesses of the Government, but I am of the firm opinion that the achievements of Gilani Government do outweigh the shortcomings.
The first and foremost task before Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani after taking over on 22nd March 2008 was the restoration of the independent Judiciary and in his first speech in the National Assembly, even before taking the oath of office, he ordered release of the judges of the superior courts and payment of their salaries. Though it took time yet he finally managed to reinstate all the deposed judges on 16th March 2009 through an executive order before the arrival of the Long March participants in Islamabad and thus saved the country from a crisis of far-reaching consequences.
Then came the unfortunate Mumbai blast and that was a testing time for his leadership qualities at the international level. He took the initiative, called the national political leadership to secure their backing and astutely handled the threats of, what Indians claimed, an imminent surgical attack. Again, during the meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh with Dr Manmohan Singh, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani managed a joint statement delinking composite dialogue between the two countries from acts of terrorism and got mention of the Indian interference in Balochistan. These manoeuvres by the Pakistani Prime Minister, a man with pleasant personality, well dressed, soft spoken and a perfect gentleman, made his stature much taller and his Indian counterpart had to come under scathing criticism from his own party and the Opposition alike for surrendering before Pakistan.
Again at the home front, when the situation was going out of hand in Swat and Malakand due to intensity in the activities of militants supported by foreign powers, he ordered military operation after building a national consensus and the Army with the backing of the elected Government and the masses succeeded in rooting out the menace. No doubt, stray incidents of terrorism may continue for sometime but most of the militants leadership has either been killed, arrested or gone underground. Looking after around three million IDPs from the affected areas and their return and rehabilitation in a short span of three months was an unimaginable task but the Federal Government under the wise leadership of Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani deployed all the resources at its disposal to mitigate the sufferings of the IDPs who sacrificed everything for the country and never complained of their difficulties. In South Waziristan too, the military operation has been successful and arrangements are in hand to rehabilitate the IDPs.
And situation in Balochistan was a source of concern for every patriotic citizen. To bring more and effective development and pacify the nationalists, Gilani took the initiative and after lengthy deliberations with most of the stakeholders, announced Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan in the Parliament. The NFC Award that has been highly hailed by the Provinces and the people alike was possible only and only due to the magnanimity shown by the Federation to bring an end to the alienation of the small Provinces and address their genuine grievances. Instead of following the stance of the past rulers for a strong Federation, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani founded and initiated the new practice that strengthening of the Federating Units was a key to strong Pakistan and by implementing it, he earned a higher degree of appreciation even from his political opponents, though we don’t intend to belittle the role that Punjab played in the achievement of NFC Award, as it also surrendered some of its share in the divisible pool of taxes to other Provinces.
The Prime Minister gave autonomy to the people of Northern Areas and a new name of Gilgit-Baltistan. Now GB has its own Chief Minister and Legislative Assembly and I know that similar autonomy is on the cards for FATA after the operation against militants is over.
The way the Prime Minister managed to handle the very difficult issue of appointment of judges to the superior Judiciary is another feather in his cap as that helped avoid a 3rd November 2007 like situation. There are several other achievements of the Government under Mr Gilani but the space does not allow their enumeration.
On the political front, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani again was the first to discard the old precedent and followed the path of reconciliation. Today, there is no political prisoner in the country and exists no case against any politician, which could be called by any one as political victimisation. This is a big positive point and the country needs to continue on this path. The Prime Minister has kept open his channel of communications with all the political leaders of the country and meeting with Mian Nawaz Sharif, PML-N Quaid and Mian Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister in Raiwind last Monday is a proof that he is open for talks on all issues.
His desire to strengthen the Parliament is known since the days when he was the Speaker of the National Assembly. At that time he even annoyed his Party in implementing the rules of business and believed that treasury and Opposition benches are two important pillars to empower Parliament. He still believes in it which is evident from the fact that he regularly attends the National Assembly sessions and responds to all the important points raised by the Opposition. One hopes that he would fulfil his commitment to implement the Charter of Democracy before 23rd March 2010 and get the required constitutional amendments through to the satisfaction of all the stakeholders.
However, I would leave a word of caution for the worthy Prime Minister that the issue of Constitutional Amendments is very difficult and must be accomplished with national consensus particularly the contentious issue of provincial autonomy so that another Pandora’s box is not opened.
In conclusion, I may acknowledge that Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani is perhaps the only Prime Minister of Pakistan, who is recognised by his friends and political foes alike as a thorough gentleman, sincere to stabilize the democratic system, strengthen institutions and take the country on the path of progress and security. I wish him good luck in this mission as we all want to see the Pakistan of the Quaid as a peaceful and prosperous State.