NRO-2 taking shape


By Brig. (Retd) Usman Khalid, Director Rifah Institute of Foreign Affairs (RIFA)

The Press in Pakistan has been talking about another NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) being imminent like the one promulgated by former dictator General Musharraf which paved the way for Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif to return to Pakistan and take part in 2008 Elections. But no such ordinance has been promulgated; the focus of attention has been fair elections under an impartial election commission and caretaker administration.

What could be wrong in that? There was nothing wrong with allowing Benazir and Nawaz Sharif coming back to Pakistan; that was thought to be a pre-requisite for fair elections. This time, no Ordinance is needed; we have the 20th Amendment passed unanimously by the parliament to ensure that the elections are conducted by an impartial non-political administration.

But the real string pullers sitting far away in Washington DC and London have no concern for fairness of elections; they want an administration in Pakistan that is unpopular and dependent on them for its viability and stability. But they do want the rules to be followed so that the unpopular administration is able to resist the popular judiciary and the powerful military.

When NRO -1 was promulgated no one, not even General Musharraf, had any idea that the end result would be the emergence of Asif Ali Zardari as the leader of a coalition of parties which have been opposed to the very idea of Pakistan. The handlers of President Asif Zardari Altaf Hussain, Rehman Malik, Salman Farooqi and Hussain Haqqani etc- have been the real rulers of Pakistan over the last five years.

The identity of the handlers of President Asif Zardari has been well known to the judicial as well as security establishment of the country but they have been powerless to do anything about it. The puppeteers who authored NRO-1 are aware that NRO-2 must entail a change in the puppet as well as the parties in power i.e. radical change in political complexion of the administration but no change in policies and governance.

The main tools in the hands of the puppeteers are still the MQM, ANP, JUI (F) and other ethnic nationalists. Asif Zardari is supported by the MQM, ANP and JUI while other ethnic nationalists and religious parties are supporting PML(N). The stage is now set for Mian Nawaz Sharif to assume office as the PM as the head of another coalition. That is how NRO-2 seeks to ensure that there will be no change in policy, particularly foreign policy; the puppeteers would continue to have control over politics as well as the economy.

The authors of NRO-2 are not satisfied with a single simple narrative because the judiciary and the military enjoy considerable public adulation and support which may increase if the next government is also incompetent and unpopular. The caretaker administration has huge importance in the development of alternative narratives.

The three name for the caretaker PM given by PML(N) give an idea that Mian Nawaz Sharif is a willing party in the game; all the names are obviously unacceptable to President Zardari and none enthuses either the people or the constituency of PML(N). The next PM would most likely be the choice of President Zardari. Since Asma Jehangirs name was included in the short list of PML(N), her nomination by the PPP would make her a consensus candidate.

She is also well known to be close to puppeteers. She is the favourite of both the PPP and the PML(N) because she is one person who has for decades demonised the Pakistan Army as the enemy of the kind of Pakistan she and her ilk want. She has accused the ISI to want to assassinate her; and she is on the hit list of the TTP.

If she is appointed caretaker PM there is every likelihood of her being assassinated. Like the assassination of Benazir paved the way for the PPP to win the 2008 Elections and Asif Zardari becoming a despotic ruler of Pakistan to plunder the state with impunity, her assassination would either result in military rule or the triumph of the present coalition that seems to have no chance at the moment to win the 2013 Elections. One wonders if that is the end game of the NRO-2.

Imran Khan of TIP has already said that Asma Jehangir would be unacceptable as the caretaker PM. If PML(N) also rejected her right away as the constituency of the party wants, her candidature would be dead in water. That would clear the way for PML(N) and its allies to win a clear victory and would leave Pakistan with a lesser problem the problem of him being anti-Army and his blunder prone way of making decisions.

That is a lesser problem because Pakistan has several reliable friends China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey who would surely hold him back when Mian Sahib asserts his error prone self. That is why I am sanguine about the prospects of Pakistan. If we are able to avoid the appointment of someone remotely suspected of being a foreign agent as the caretaker Prime Minister, Pakistan would survive the current crisis.

But sectarian and ethnic bloodletting may well be exacerbated by the puppet masers. The victims of violence in Pakistan, particularly the Shia community, have already asked for the military to protect them. Under the present political dispensation which is hostile to the military as evidenced by the memogate affair, the military is constrained. Under an impartial caretaker administration the military without much direct intervention would be able help deal with terrorism, reverse financial sanctions and recover funds illegally or fraudulently spent by the present rulers, and end the load shedding that has blighted life as well as the economy of Pakistan.

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