PRESS GALLERY: It’s time to prove loyalties
By Rana Qaisar
ISLAMABAD: Prime minister-in-waiting Shaukat Aziz is the most discussed person in this nation of 150 million people. Some talk about his (in)ability to kick-start the economy, which after 9/11 has seen tremendous improvement but without decreasing the number of those living under the poverty-line, while others find in this banker-turned-politician the qualities of an administrator who has the skill to give the country clean and efficient governance.
But before we could see this era of economic development and political stability, the candidature of Mr Aziz for the top government slot has, unfortunately, become politically and legally controversial at the very outset because he has not resigned as finance minister before filing his nomination papers.
The opposition in the Senate on Wednesday questioned the legality of his nomination papers. Raza Rabbani, who has rich parliamentary experience with knowledge and understanding of the Constitution, informed the house that Mr Aziz’s papers violated of the law because he had not resigned from government office.
The election commission, under Election Commission Order 2002, had asked the members of the federal and provincial cabinets to resign before filing their nomination papers for the general election and all those whom General Musharraf wanted to continue in the political dispensation, had accordingly resigned. This order of the Election Commission, like all such orders issued before October 10, 2002, were given legal cover with the insertion of Article 270AA into the Constitution through the Legal Framework Order (LFO).
The legal wizards of the Musharraf-Shujaat government are not prepared to consider this order valid any longer as they claim that the Constitution does not impose such restrictions. Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, who is a seasoned parliamentarian and a distinguished constitutional expert, rejects this argument and says the election commission’s order, which requires a minister to resign before filing his nomination papers, will remain valid until it is superseded by another order or by amending Article 270AA, which has become part of the Constitution.
The laws in this land of the pure are not to be followed, it seems! The Political Parties Order (PPO) was amended to discourage holding public and party office simultaneously. But the PPO continues to be violated as the chief ministers of the Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan maintain the offices of provincial presidents of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML). While Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali was asked by his own party to quit as PML secretary general when he became prime minister, all of them, in the supreme national interest, are quiet about Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain holding the office of the PML president as well.
All treasury members including members of Mr Hussain’s cabinet, with the exception of Rao Sikandar and Aftab Sherpao-led official Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), take every opportunity to defend Mr Aziz, no matter how illegal or unconstitutional his case maybe, only to secure a ministerial slot in his cabinet to prove their loyalty to the proverbial king who has yet to be enthroned after he (as all his enemy-turned-friends are 100 percent sure) wins the election with the support of entire state machinery.
Though unexpected, if Mr Aziz were to be defeated, there would be no justification for Prime Minister Hussain, Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi and Sindh Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim to continue because their electoral seats have been vacated. The Attock seat has been vacated by Mr Hussain’s niece while the Tharparkar seat has been vacated by Mr Rahim’s cousin.
On the other hand, the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) failed to reach an agreement to field a joint candidate of the Pakistan People’s Party-Parliamentarians (PPP-P) and PML-Nawaz. They have nominated separate candidates to contest the by-election against the prime minister-in-waiting. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) has also fielded its own candidates as the religious alliance also could not reach an understanding with the ARD. This has clearly indicated that the ARD too suffers internal wrangling. And as the MMA is called a “friendly opposition” because of its covert support to the government; there are also “loyal to the government” elements in the ARD who might thwart coordinated moves to give the government a tough time.