Tag Archive: Muttahida Qaumi Movement


Pakistan is on the path of international economic isolation. The serious analysts are in a state of shock with their fingers crossed. They are not ready to believe what is now unfolding before their eyes. A decision taken today in national interest is reversed the next day under pressure, again in the national interest. The ruling party of Pakistan has finally decided to sacrifice economy and the well being of the common man along with it, at the altar of power. The price for staying in power was huge but who cares as long as someone else (read: common man) is paying the price.

The government was relying on imposition of RGST for sailing through the economic problems but all the mainstream political parties have opposed it tooth and nail, for their own reasons which include safeguarding the interests of the elite and putting the government in a difficult situation. Ironically those who opposed this new levy had no alternative strategy except the vague rhetoric of minimizing the institutional corruption in the tax machinery. It seems that the government will work overtime to print notes during the remaining two years. Incidentally, governor of the central bank has already warned against the devastating implications of deficit financing.

Has the government decided to abandon the economic reforms? The instant reaction of US and IMF to reversion of increase in the petroleum prices confirms it.  The government has embarked on the path of economic isolation internationally simply to remain in power. These are short-cut methods and will badly affect the life of common man.

According to Financial Times, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, announced the deferral of an IMF-backed tax reform on Friday. The reformed general sales tax, which Pakistan has been discussing with the IMF for more than a year, was supposed to be introduced in July last year to boost tax revenues.

“We will not go forward [with the RGST] until consensus is evolved,” said Mr Gilani during a visit to the southern port city of Karachi, where he visited the headquarters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

Mr Gilani reversed a plan to increase oil prices on Thursday to win back the support of MQM, after the party withdrew from the ruling coalition in a move that denied the government parliamentary majority. MQM confirmed on Friday that it would rejoin the coalition.

Analysts warned that the decision to delay the RGST would further intensify concerns over the government’s ability to reform Pakistan’s troubled economy.

“This is a near fatal blow to the reform process,” warned Sakib Sherani, a former adviser to the finance ministry. “The RGST was meant to finally begin documenting the vast informal economy in a country with an alarmingly low tax to GDP ratio.”

Mr Gilani’s decision will only cause more problems with the IMF. Pakistan does not have much to show in the form of successful reforms being undertaken currently. The RGST is a key part of Pakistan’s agreement with the IMF and its postponement could put the $11bn loan package in jeopardy. The IMF said that raising the ratio of government revenue to national income was essential to returning Pakistan’s public finances towards sustainability and the sales tax was an indispensable component in this effort.

Nobody is sure if Prime Minister Gillani’s government will survive the current political crisis but everyone wishes him well because no one, particularly those sitting in the Parliament can afford an early election. At this critical juncture, the largest opposition party does not want any political instability because for them PPP’s government means “system” and “democracy” and they say they would not derail either the system or the democracy. But there is one gentleman who sees his chance in Gilani’s looming dismissal. He is accused of many crimes including dismissing the heavy mandate and bringing Pakistan’s economy back to stability. According to media reports, former President Pervez Musharraf on Monday said his newly formed party was prepared for possible early elections as the government in Islamabad scrambles to save its ruling coalition. Musharraf, who launched the All Pakistan Muslim League APML in October, said he will return to Pakistan “before the next election”.

“We are ready to contest elections,” Musharraf told reporters at his apartment in Dubai.

“A little more time would be useful, as we are a new party. However, we will definitely try if the elections come early.”

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s government lost its parliamentary majority on Sunday when the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) announced it would sit on opposition benches over fuel price policies. The opposition has not yet sought a no-confidence vote against Gilani in parliament but analysts say that is the biggest worry for the government.  The next election is not due until 2013.

“For the government to survive, the PML-N or the PML-Q (parties outside the coalition) have to support them. Such support will have a lot of consequences,” Musharraf added.

Musharraf said: “I must return (to Pakistan) well before the next elections, whenever that may be. I strongly believe the real momentum for my party will start once I reach Pakistan. So we are trying to create an environment for me to reach there.”

Musharraf claimed he did not rule out alliances with other political parties in the future.

“Many parties want to be with us. But I want my party to get a simple majority in the next elections so that we do not have to rely on others.” He said he had made “mistakes”, including actions against The judiciary and imposing a state of emergency, but dismissed the possibility of another military takeover, saying he wanted to come to power with “the mandate of the public”.

Would Pakistan be any different today if the tragic incident of December 27, 2007 had not taken place? It certainly would be a different country even if Benazir Bhutto was in opposition. She had the benefit of having first-hand experience of dealing with the power-brokers and the real stakeholders of the country’ politics and she knew exactly how to deal with each of them. Some scenario-builders have developed various scenarios with BB still alive. They have different scenarios to conceive but the most interesting estimation of the country with BB in power has been written by Mr. Khaled Ahmed which appeared in the latest issue of Express Tribune.

According to this account, BB’s pre-election politics would have been aimed at not threatening to upset the Afghanistan strategy, a strategy with which she clearly did not agree. She would have talked to the Americans constantly through their ambassador but would have also realized that the Democrats were certainly going to win the 2009 election and that pressure on the next incumbent for US-NATO withdrawal would increase. She wanted to prevent the ‘political memory’ in Pakistan from dropping her party from the popular radar. She would have been cautious rather than rash in the country’s changed environment. But her relationship with Musharraf and the PML Q would have run into rough waters — as she had indicated in her last book and her letter to Musharraf in which she feared that certain members of the PML Q and elements in the intelligence agencies would plan to get rid of her.

Once in Pakistan, she would have taken a stance closer to the PML N– there were signs of this after the attack on her in Karachi. Her relationship with the MQM would have remained sour because of the latter’s close working partnership with Musharraf, but she would have applied pragmatism to her handling of the ANP. Returning from the wilderness and seeing all the changes in Sindh, she would have learned, however, to accept the MQM’s own ‘realism’ in not provoking the dominant Sindhi party.

Her post-election presence in the government would have been dicey because the 17th Amendment debarred both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir from premiership. In case the 17th Amendment ban was removed, Benazir as coalition prime minister would have worked, but it would have been ‘overbalanced’ by Musharraf in the presidency, calling all the shots as far as foreign policy was concerned. The coalition would be rancorous and unstable. She would have therefore relied on her counterbalancing alliance with Nawaz Sharif on the basis of the 2006 Charter of Democracy.

Nawaz Sharif, of course, would have been back, his return forced by the Saudis. Benazir would have persuaded him to take part in the elections. The post-election government in Punjab would have belonged to PML Q, but would have been harassed by the two big parties in opposition. The Mumbai attack in 2008 would have caused a political earthquake, giving Benazir more leverage over Musharraf and the army. It would have been a very divided and internecine coalition over which Musharraf would have had to preside.

Benazir would have quickly realized that Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had erred in not passing on the oil price hike the world was hit by in 2007. The Indian summer of the economic boom under him would clearly have been at an end when the 2008 worldwide crisis broke and found Pakistan with its pants down, with a circular debt overhang of 300 billion rupees. She would have severely rocked the coalition boat and worked for a mid-term election.