As the year draws to a close, The Express Tribune takes a look at the ten most important political developments of the year. As the effects of these developments spill over to the next year, one hopes for more stability in 2011.
In March, it turned out that PPP’s Jamshed Dasti had submitted fake academic degrees to contest the 2008 elections. The Supreme Court directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to arrange by-elections for his seat and two others (one in NA and one in the Punjab Assembly). The degrees of all parliamentarians and provincial ministers, including the prime minister, were then reviewed by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and declared fake or genuine. So far, 603 degrees of parliamentarians have been declared genuine, while 59 have been declared bogus. Early in December, the ECP launched criminal proceedings against those found holding fake degrees.
After a spurt of violence across Karachi in July, the MQM and ANP blamed each other for the drive-by shootings that claimed at least 30 lives in five days. MQM’s Dr Farooq Sattar categorically blamed the ANP for the killing of a party worker. ANP responded in by calling the MQM a terrorist organisation. Interior Minister Rehman Malik flew to Karachi from Islamabad to calm tempers and keep the coalition intact. As he tried to mend the breach, Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza uttered his famous line: “Aik dulhan shadi kay liye tayyar hai, doosri kay paas ja raha hoon”.
Abdul Qayyum Khan Jatoi, the state minister for defence production, resigned from the cabinet on Prime Minister Gilani’s insistence in September after he gave a controversial statement that put the PPP government in an awkward position. Jatoi had said that the army is not meant to kill innocent citizens and alleged that Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry belonged to Faisalabad but used a domicile of Balochistan to become a judge. Jatoi had told Gilani that he had made the remarks in his personal capacity. Unsatisfied with this explanation, the prime minister asked him to resign.
Former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf launched his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML). He unveiled the new political party and its manifesto at a gentlemen’s club in Whitehall Palace, England. Tight security arrangements were made with all those entering the room being thoroughly checked and attendants included a number of politicians who were in his government. Musharraf apologised to the nation for what he called his mistakes, including the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which struck down corruption cases against thousands: “I am aware of the fact there were some decisions which resulted in negative political repercussions and had adverse effects on nation-building.”
Prime Minister Gilani’s decision to sack Swati, however, opened a Pandora’s Box as Swati’s party – the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) – reacted by deciding to quit the ruling coalition. The party has seven seats in the National Assembly and over a dozen members in the Senate. With support from the JUI-F, the PPP has a simple majority in the Senate and losing that support could weaken its position regarding the passage of legislation in the National Assembly. The JUI-F also submitted the resignations of two more cabinet members to the prime minister: Housing Minister Rehmatullah Kakar and Tourism Minister Maulana Attaur Rehman.
President Zardari became the first president to forgo his executive powers as he signed the 18th Constitutional Amendment bill into law in April. The amendment removes the power of the president of Pakistan to unilaterally dissolve parliament and renamed the province of North-West Frontier Province as “Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa”. Some 292 of 342 members of the National Assembly voted in favour of the amendment, a draft of which was presented after months of deliberation by the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms (PCCR), headed by PPP’s Senator Raza Rabbani. However, contention over appointment of judges led to the passage of the 19th Amendment later this year.
MQM MPA Raza Haider was shot dead, along with his bodyguard, in a mosque in Nazimabad, Karachi on August 2, 2010. Haider had reportedly gone there to attend a funeral when unidentified men opened fire at him. Within 24 hours of Haider’s death, as many as 47 people were killed and over 100 injured in Karachi, while the city police released sketches of two men suspected of involvement in the assassination. Interior Minister Rehman Malik told members of the Senate, which convened a day after Haider was killed, that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was involved in his murder.
Senior leader of the Muttahida Qaumi (MQM) Movement, and Convener of the party’s Rabita Committee, Dr Imran Farooq was murdered in a knife attack in the Edgware district of London late at night on September 16, 2010. Reports suggested that he was taken to hospital in injured condition where doctors confirmed his death and surmised that the incident could have been an attempted mugging. In Karachi, the MQM announced a 10-day mourning as the city erupted into rioting. Farooq’s body was brought to Pakistan in November to be buried in the Yaseenabad graveyard in Karachi, while the Scotland Yard opened investigations.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani sacked science and technology minister Azam Khan Swati and religious affairs minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi in December, following a row over a corruption scam in Hajj arrangements. Swati, who belongs to the JUI-F, accused PPP’s Kazmi of corruption and asked Gilani to sack him. Kazmi refuted the claim that he was involved but admitted that corruption had, indeed, taken place. He also sent a defamation notice to Swati. As the ministers continued to exchange barbs, Gilani first tried to gag the ministers but as the situation unravelled, he had to fire them both.
Sindh Youth Affairs Minister Faisal Sabzwari announced that his party MQM is quitting the federal cabinet but not the treasury benches, a day after party chief Altaf Hussain, in a telephonic address to a party convention at Bhit Shah in Sindh, asked the people if they wanted MQM to sever ties with the government. A delegation of the party, irked by Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza’s tirade, met the president in Islamabad on December 27 to announce the party’s decision. Altaf Hussain said that the MQM was quitting the cabinet, not the government “for the sake of democracy”.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2011.