Rani Singh

The immediate aftermath

The immediate aftermath
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It's curtains for the “King’s Party” – the PML (Q), President Musharraf’s political prop – which has all but lost its power base after key figures were felled in yesterday’s vote.

 

The PPPP, (the Benazir Pakistan Peoples’ Party adds a P for Parliamentarians to distinguish it from separate Bhutto family member-run factions) has taken the National Assembly seat lead, with 86 announced at the time of reporting, followed by Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N), currently at 65.

 

Schools and educational institutions remain closed for a second day while all election results are compiled. They await confirmation.

 

The Provincial trend commenced at the beginning of Monday evening has continued, with the PPPP taking Sindh, the PML (N) leading in Punjab, the PML (Q) with Balochistan, and, significantly, the moderate Awami National Party in the tribal North West Frontier Province, heartland of radicals, militants and Islamic extremists.

 

On Sindh, S.G.A. Shah – Party Province President for the PML (N) – told Coffee House today that since the PPPP have the most seats, the choice of candidate for Prime Minister lies with them. Yet Shah’s own suggestion would be the PPPP vice-chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim. The former Sindh Chief and Pakistani Defence Minister told me his workers were regretting his absence (he is in London for unavoidable reasons), saying they would have fared better in Sindh if he had been there to lead. He also revealed that his party felt compassion at the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and quite understood that some of their own supporters would want to vote for the PPPP in sympathy. He said he didn’t mind – so long as they didn’t vote for the PML (Q).

 

Nawaz Sharif held his first post-election press conference today in Lahore. He appeared calm and content, choosing his words carefully, his voice slightly hoarse after days of intense speech-making and rallying. He said the lawyers and judges must be restored and reinstated.

 

He told the press that he is due to meet with other political leaders in Islamabad on Thursday, where they will discuss “options.”

 

“Once the judiciary is restored, they will have to give a judgement on the legitimacy of (Mushrraf’s) candidature,” Sharif commented. Note the word “restored.” It appears at this stage to be a point of divergence from the PPPP’s Co-Chair Asif Ali Zardari, who has called for judicial “independence.”

Reports say that Zardari announced today that he is in contact with political parties to form the next government. One of his chiefs said, “The PPP is not a solo flight, we will take everyone along with us.”

A press conference by American Senators John Kerry, Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel is just finishing in Islamabad. The last said, “We hope the new Government is committed to working with us.”

I wonder if they really care. The Washington Post reports this week that two Hellfire missiles struck Pakistani soil without that country’s official permission in January and killed an al-Qaeda commander. The operation, say US officials, “Involved an unusual degree of autonomy by the CIA inside Pakistan.” The Post writes:

“It is an approach that some U.S. officials say could be used more frequently this year, particularly if a power vacuum results from yesterday's election and associated political tumult.”

Americans don’t need to worry if their pal Pervez is off the scene; they’ll just do what they wanna do anyways!