Gilani follows well-worn path
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is under fire for his handling of army actions in the troubled North West Frontier Province and the tribal areas of Pakistan. On Tuesday, members of the PML-N, a coalition partner, questioned the military movements, which Gilani approved without consulting parliament or his own political allies.
Many of Gilani's predecessors have ceded gradually increasing powers to the military in the face of threats. Now the Gillani government is following this well-worn path.
The anger over last week's actions is compounded by confusion over government's leadership. While Giliani was elected by an impressive parliamentary majority, Asif Zardari, the Pakistan Peoples Party leader, actually calls the shots on most important decisions and appointments. Not one to step aside, President Musharraf has declared that will continue in office despite calls for his resignation.
With its 100 days almost up, the PPP-led government has still not solved many of the problems it promised it would once in office. Although Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, leader of the PML-N, have held several meetings, reinstatement of Supreme Court judges, sacked last year by President Musharraf, remains in limbo. The latest point of disagreement is whether those judges who opted to stay on and pledge allegience to President Musharraf should be allowed to continue.
Musharraf, by and large, has his supporters in different pockets. The move by the Lahore High Court to debar Sharif from contesting this week's by-elections is seen as an attempt by the new judges to reproach Sharif for opposing them, an action by those who support the president.
Pakistan's economy is threatened by high unemployment and inflation, and the government has done little to fight it. Poverty levels in Pakistan continue to rise despite claims that money is being pumped into poverty alleviation. Rising fuel costs and chronic power shortages will worsen the situation. Most Pakistanis face real economic problems, but Gilani is entangled in political ones. If he continues the gradual move towards the pro-West, pro-Musharraf camp on issues from military engagement in the NWFP to the reinstatement of judges, the chances of the coalition government holding together are bleak.