Government walked tightrope throughout the year


The year 2011 proved to be a challenging year for the coalition government, which saw many disputes throughout the year, with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani crying foul against state institutions, including the military and judiciary, but later reversing his claims and saying he respected both institutions.
However, the biggest achievement this year was the successful devolution of powers from Centre to the provinces, which completed provincial autonomy as concurrent list was abolished and powers were devolved to provincial governments. This process also saw some hot debates on the devolution process, as some rifts between the Centre and provinces emerged over devolution that remain unresolved to date.
November and December proved to be fatal for the regime, as the government took the military and judiciary head-on over in the controversy over a memorandum (memo) allegedly written on the behest of former ambassador to US Husain Haqqani allowing concessions to the US and seeking its help by President Asif Ali Zardari against a feared military coup.
The matter is still pending with the apex court.
The country’s sovereignty also came into question after the US special forces raided a compound in Abbottabad on the night between May 1 and May 2 in open breach of the country’s sovereignty. The US troops also claimed to have killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the operation without taking Pakistani authorities into confidence.
Devolution Process: The government made a historic achievement by devolving 17 ministries to the provinces and abolishing the concurrent list.
A total of 17 ministries were devolved from Centre to the provinces under the devolution process evolved in accordance with the 18th Amendment. The implementation commission on devolution process successfully met its deadline of June 31 as all the ministries were devolved and the cabinet approved the last seven ministries on June 28.
The federal cabinet in its special meeting unanimously approved the transfer of last seven remaining ministries to the provinces.
Those ministries which were devolved included ministries of women development, food and agriculture, sports, environment, labour and manpower, health, minorities affairs, youth affairs, population welfare, zakat and ushr, special initiatives, local government and rural development, tourism, culture, social welfare, dairies and livestock.
Devolution challenges: The year also saw some controversies triggering off between the federal and provincial governments over devolution, which are yet to be resolved. The incomplete agenda of the devolution process is between the federal and Punjab governments, which includes devolution of ShaikhZayed Hospital Lahore to the Punjab Government and devolution of Workers’ Welfare Fund and Employees’ Old Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) to the provinces.
Confrontation with judiciary, military: The government continued confronting the state institutions. Following a decision on National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), the apex court took up a petition by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif on the memo controversy. This created panic in the government circles and the government challenged the court’s jurisdiction, claiming that the parliamentary committee on national security was tasked to probe the matter.
Interestingly, after adopting a confrontational path against the judiciary, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in December claimed that conspirators were plotting to bring down his government, adding that “a state within a state” would not be allowed. Making two hard-hitting speeches in a day, the premier hinted towards the military leadership for conspiring against his government.
However, within hours, the army chief and chief justice responded strongly, clearing the air about Gilani’s claims. Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said no one would be allowed to go for intervention in violation of the constitution and army chief said the army was committed to democratic process and no military takeover would occur. After some quiet messaging, things returned to normalcy, but the case is still pending with the apex court.
Failure to woo Baloch rebels: The government also failed to make a breakthrough in its talks with rebel Baloch leadership and despite 80 percent implementation of the Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan Package, no headway could be made in talks.
Meanwhile, PPP Senator Lashkari Raisani blamed “non-serious” attitude of the prime minister and Interior Minister Rehman Malik for failure of peace talks initiated by him with some Baloch insurgent groups.
No step on Seraiki province: The government also failed to take any initiative on the creation of new provinces and despite making tall claims, the prime minister did not move forward on his repeated public assurances on Seraiki province.
Though the ruling party also formed a sub-committee of its manifesto committee on Seraiki province, which was headed by Textiles Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin, the sub-committee failed to come up with its proposals on the new province. The PPP also appointed Shahabuddin the president of its Seraiki chapter, but he too failed to complete his provincial organisation to date.
Differences with MQM: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) left the PPP-led coalition government on June 27, leaving the government as a minority. MQM ministers Dr FarooqSattar, Babar Ghauri and Dr NadeemEhsan sent their resignations to President Zardari on June 28. In December 2010, the JUI-F had also quit the government.
The MQM announced to sit on opposition benches in the National Assembly, Senate and Sindh Assembly in protest against the postponement of election on two Karachi seats of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly. Differences between both parties on revival of magistracy also became a bone of contention.
However, On October 5, the MQM rejoined the government after continued talks between the two parties that also helped the provincial government control the law and order in Karachi.
PML-Q joins government: With the MQM departing, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) announced to join the PPP-led coalition government on May 2 under a power-sharing agreement. Despite differences erupting within the party cadres, the coalition sailed through successfully, as the Chaudhrys were satisfied with the conduct of the PPP leadership.
Karachi target killings: July and August became deadliest months in Karachi’s history, which left around 600 people killed in incidents of targeted killings. The attacks were part of a terrorist campaign of political, ethnic and religious violence that gripped the city in its worst form in recent years. By late August and September, the security situation in Karachi had stabilised and targeted killings had lessened, though isolated incidents still occurred – thanks to the intervention by Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Continuous targeted killings in the month of July claimed over 300 people – the highest death toll in a month in almost two decades of fighting linked to ethnic and religious tension.
Federal cabinet: The federal cabinet made a landmark achievement by holding its 100th meeting on December 25. Throughout the year, the cabinet saw many controversies with MQM ministers resigning and rejoining. Moreover, around fourteen ministers of the PML-Q also took oath as federal ministers and ministers of state on May 2, taking the size of the cabinet to 36.
However, despite several efforts, the deal between the PPP and the PML-Q remained inconclusive, as Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi was not made the deputy prime minister and had to act as a senior minister. Later, two ministers of the Q league, Amir Muqam and Raza Hayat Heraj, resigned in protest of their party’s decisions.