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PM election fails to quell tensions in Pakistan

06-25-2012 15:05 BJT

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In Pakistan, the election of a new Prime Minister has failed to quell political tensions. The supreme court is already working to re-open a corruption investigation against the new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. Analysts say the confrontation between the executive and the judiciary will continue until the next government is formed.

Taking the oath to the astonishment of millions.

Raja Pervez Ashraf is sworn in as Pakistan’s 17th Prime Minister.

But his election by the parliament last Friday, does little to quell the tension.

Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari said, "The detractors of democracy have long been hounding the former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani. They thought that the coalition will not be able to agree to a new leader of the house. They hoped that it will give them a chance to send the house packing and create political uncertainty. They have been proven wrong."

Those “detractors of democracy” that President Zardari referred to are in fact, the judges on the country’s Supreme Court.

For months, they’ve been pushing to re-open a corruption investigation against the sitting president. But so far their demands have been rejected.

The former Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gillani was convicted of contempt for refusing the Court’s orders back in April.

He insisted that since Zardari is a sitting leader, he cannot be tried.

But last Monday, the Court dismissed Gillani as Prime Minister.

And President Zardari and the ruling Pakistan People’s Party scrambled to find a replacement.

Their first pick was Makhdoom Shahabuddin, a veteran politician and former health minister, whose family has a long history of political ties.

But as he was filing his nomination papers, the court intervened. And a judge issued a warrant for his arrest for his alleged involvement in a drug smuggling scam.

Zardari then nominated Raja Pervez Ashraf as a last minute replacement.

A former property dealer, who once served as the country’s minister of water and power, Ashraf’s experience in politics is extensive -- but he too is embroiled in scandal.

Ashraf is the face of the country’s current energy crisis. He’s thought to be responsible for disastrous policies and repeatedly made promises he couldn’t keep.

He’s also under investigation for corruption, for allegedly taking kickbacks during his time as water and power minister.

Many Pakistanis find his election as Prime Minister hard to understand.

Telecommunications worker Mohammad Asif said, "The People’s Party is behaving in a strange manner. I just cannot understand their policy. First one corrupt man went, now they are bringing in another corrupt person who has not been able to resolve the energy crisis. How is he going to run the country?"

Leather belt vendor Abdullah Sabri said, "He is already notorious as a corrupt minister in the rental power plants issue. Now they have made him the Prime Minister. How is he going to serve the public?"

Prime Minister Ashraf is also likely to get the same order that his predecessor did from the Supreme Court -- to re-open a corruption case against President Zardari.

The charges date back to the 1990s. Zardari and his late wife, then-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto -- were accused of using swiss banks to launder millions received in bribes.

The Supreme Court wants the Prime Minister to write a letter to Swiss authorities asking them to re-examine the accounts.

Political analyst Ashrad Sharif said, “The supreme court has formed an implementation bench which is looking after this case. And once the new PM comes in they would definitely ask him to write the letter, but as it has already been made clear by the Pakistan people’s party that they will not write it, so the confrontation between the executive and the judiciary will continue till the next government is formed.”

Many Pakistanis agree the power struggle is likely to continue as long as Zardari’s ruling PPP remains in power.

School clerk Mohammad Saleem said, “If he does not write the letter, his fate will be the same as Gilani’s. As long as the People’s Party is around, and President Zardari is present, no matter who comes in as Prime Minister he will meet the same end. He will get the same punishment, because he will not write the letter."

With tensions so high between the government and the judiciary, many analysts say they don’t expect Prime Minister Ashraf’s term to last long.

But a power struggle is the last thing Pakistan needs. Relations with the US are at an all time low, the economy is faltering, and militants are becoming increasingly active in the tribal areas near the Afghan border.

The Pakistan People’s Party hopes to be able to fulfill a full five year term, which would be a first for a civilian government in a nation that’s spent more than half its history under military rule.

Reporter: “Experts say Pakistan is already over the boiling point with fury on the streets over power cuts and a crisis in relations with the U.S. And with a weak prime minister, and mounting pressure of insurgency, drone attacks and internal challenges, many people here are hoping for relief in the form of an early election and a change in government. “


Editor:Zhang Rui |Source: CNTV.CN

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