THE problem with a ‘conceding mood’ is that the demands continue to pile up. This is what is happening here as we see pressures mounting on the present government to give relief to political groups in the run-up to a scheduled election. President Zardari’s much-flaunted magnanimity is under severe test. Dr Tahirul Qadri besieged Islamabad last month and from his cosy existence inside a five-star container he was able to draw a galaxy of ministers to his doorstep. Though the government did not give in to his main demands, it was seen to have been forced into taking Dr Qadri seriously. This was a cue for other, visibly much bigger, political entities in the country to confront the PPP government with sets of their own demands. The PML-N sit-in on Monday might not have been the tumultuous event some people were hoping for, but it did get the support of some other parties and the message, ‘for greater empowerment of the Election Commission of Pakistan’, was conveyed. The PML-N has upped the ante by coming up with a long list of other ‘necessary’ steps which it wants the government to take before the polls.
This is a real tall ask which requires the PPP administration to replace a number of officials, from provincial governors to heads of the government-run radio and television setups. The intent obviously is to stay in the public eye as a group which has deep distrust of the government — a line consistent with the argument which says President Zardari is an impediment in the conduct of fair polls. Since this plank is intrinsically linked to the PML-N’s election rallying cry against a “corrupt” PPP, the complaints about the Zardari government’s alleged excesses are going to grow louder as the election nears. While all demands deserve to be heard, there is still plenty of reason in the reply to the PML-N’s call for these wholesale changes, as enunciated the other day in a statement by Punjab Governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood: those who are asking for these changes in connection with the election now had the parliament as the proper platform to raise the issue. Not a bad counter-argument.