The appointment of Sardar Latif Khosa as the Governor of Punjab is the first serious blow to the purported rapprochement between the two principal political parties of the country based on the proposed charter of demands presented by the PML(N) Quaid. One of the demands concerned the removal of the tainted ministers and officials who are part of the incumbent administration and to undertake further concrete initiatives to eliminate corruption from the country.
Latif Khosas appointment is in gross violation of the professed intent of the prime minister. He had stated that there was a broad agreement on the contents of the demands and committees have since been constituted from both sides to sit together for evolving a consensus for the necessary reforms. One wonders at what can either be described as the utter naivet of the prime minister, or a serious discord between him and the president regarding matters of the state.
One understands that Latif Khosa is not the prime ministers man. In fact, he is the one who was forced to relieve his office as advisor in the Ministry of Information Technology after charges of corruption had been levelled against him. Prior to that, he was asked to be removed as the Attorney General of Pakistan on the orders of the Supreme Court when charges surfaced regarding him having received money from a client for assurance of getting a favourable decision by the judges. This, combined with his chequered record in the legal business, casts serious aspersions on the real intentions of the government with regard to undertaking any genuine effort to clean up the mess that has piled up over the last three years.
Still more, Latif Khosas efforts, together with those of his erstwhile colleague in the cabinet, created a serious rift in the legal fraternity, thus damaging the cause of an independent judiciary for which the people of Pakistan have rendered unprecedented sacrifices and displayed unmatched unity. One may understand the compulsions under which his appointment has been generally welcomed, but it does not provide encouraging portents for the future.
The travails that are bound to haunt the purported move for reconciliation between the hitherto warring coalition partners in the provincial government are far too many to be easily digested. Corruption is one major component that has plagued the working of the federal government and would constitute an important factor in the proposed parleys between the two major political parties. Two cases encompassing the worst in corrupt practices are currently being heard in the Supreme Court: the enormous corruption in the rental power plants and the massive land scam involving the setting up of a golf and country club in Lahore. The power firm has been told to refund a hefty mobilisation advance of Rs. 780 million within 24 hours or face the prospect of investigation by the FIA and three former generals and a former minister have been summoned to the court in the Rs. 50 billion land scam case involving the elitist club in Lahore. The petition regarding the club scam has been jointly moved by a founding member of Pakistan Peoples Party Dr. Mubashar Hasan and the former State minister for Railways Mr. Ishaq Khan Khakwani. The two cases provide only a microcosmic view of the extent the corruption mafias have penetrated various echelons of the administration in their bid to perpetuate their massive interests.
The positive response of the prime minister to Mian Nawaz Sharifs demands may have led to an interim hiatus, but what is to follow as a natural consequence of making promises that clearly cannot be honoured presents a harrowing scenario. Quite obviously, PML(N)s claim to a high moral ground would be seriously jeopardised if there is even a hint of compromise on the widely projected demands for putting things right in the country. Much speculation has already been aired about the governments dubious intentions behind the strategic move and there is a general consensus that it has nothing much to lose because it commands no credibility in the existing environment. On the other hand, PML(N) has put a lot at stake in the ongoing struggle to establish transparency in the conduct of the government and the ascendancy of the rule of law. There is also the demand with regard to following all Supreme Court injunctions including the one on the National Reconciliation Ordinance. These objectives, if achieved, would target the very foundations of the existing style of governance as well as the continuation in power of its principal players. On the face of it, there is no hope for it to come through.
The question arises: why initiate something that has little to no prospect of success? Is it a case of over-optimism, or a hope in hell of the devil changing its ways? And what would be the grand finale to this 45-day period that has been earmarked to ensure implementation of an agreed agenda for good governance? While PML(N) cannot afford a dent in its high moral ground position, it is the PPP-led coalition that will have to do most of the work. It may have won a temporary relief by getting the MQM back in the fold, but the differences between the two coalition partners in Sindh and at the centre are far too contentious to remain buried for long. They represent divergent ways the two leaderships look at the burgeoning realities in the province. While the next few weeks will be laden with absorbing politicking, one hopes it would not be, yet again, at the cost of the cardinal interests of the people of Pakistan.
The writer is a media consultant to the Chief Minister, Punjab.