Rani Singh

Pranab Mukherjee’s potential as president

Congress party Pranab Mukherjee’s victory in the Indian presidential election this week allowed the party to exhale for a nanosecond amid the gloom of stalled economic reform and political paralysis. As the country watched the pomp and pageantry of the presidential swearing-in today, the tectonic plates of power in India started to shift again. The Indian

Mukherjee can’t change India’s political paralysis

The Indian president lives in a Lutyens palace formerly occupied by the country’s viceroys, replete with ballroom, cinema, and Mughal gardens. I’ve been inside to interview the current incumbent, Pratibha Patil. With 360 rooms, it’s a big house for a small person and you can get lost – indeed recently, Patil reportedly did go missing

Washington rules, doesn’t it?

The News reported yesterday that US diplomats have told PPPP Co-Chair Asif Ali Zardari that they “Will not allow anyone to destroy” their “huge investment” of more than $10 billion in President Musharraf: “Sources said the fact of the matter was that Musharraf was the most unpopular man in Pakistan but he was still the

Legal drama

Supreme Court Bar Association President, and senior PPPP figure, Aitzaz Ahsan has just finished a second powerful and moving speech to the media in Lahore. It’s the first day that press restrictions on him have been lifted since he was placed under house-arrest. He’s demanding the restoration of all deposed judges and calling for “A long march” by the

The immediate aftermath

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

Shock defeats for pro-Musharraf party chiefs

Staunch Musharraf allies and Pakistan Muslim League (Q) supremos, Party President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussein and former federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed both lost their supposedly safe seats. According to reports, former federal minister and former PPP Secretary General Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar has comfortably defeated the PML (Q) Chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussein by at least 13293

Violence & vote-rigging, as results come in

PML (N) and PPP in front for National assembly; many more results expected Asif Ali Zardari is reported to be in Islamabad tonight for an emergency strategy meeting with Nawaz Sharif and other party leaders amid widespread fears of rigging. Results are coming in, but the picture can still change. The PML (N) and the

Riding away with votes

PML(N) Sindh Province President S.G.A Shah told Coffee House on Sunday that the next Zardari-Sharif meeting for the new  PPP/ PML(N) alliance will be on the 19th February, following on from their lunch last weekend. He emphasised that since neither of them are contesting a seat in this election, neither of them can be Prime

Polls are closed

The polls have now closed and counting has begun. There have been shootings in Hyderabad and bomb blasts elsewhere, the latest murder tally for Monday can be viewed on the Geo TV website ; reporters are saying there is an “average number of killings for Pakistan”. Next door, Delhi is in a state of alert

The countdown begins

Polls open at 8.00am and close at 5.00pm (Pakistan time). Counting starts immediately after that, with first results coming in over the next few hours. The final numbers of seats being fought over on Monday have been adjusted slightly because of a few candidate deaths and also the worrisome tribal area security situation. The number of National

Polls & death tolls

The Chief of Army Staff General A.P. Kayani has “expressed satisfaction” over arrangements to maintain law and order for the elections while asking for public co-operation. An army spokesman has announced a deployment at the 8,900 most “sensitive” polling stations around the country. The caretaker Interior Minister told foreign observers that 95 army battalions are

Water, politicised

Geo TV is running an evening show in Urdu called “The Great Debate” in which the representatives of the major parties are each given three-minute slots to air their views on an election subject, after which they are each interrogated by a Geo chair before going through to two, more detailed, rounds. Experts are in

Poll boost for Musharraf’s rivals

I’ve mentioned before that election polls don’t happen nearly as often in Pakistan as they do in America. Then, like the London buses…. This week the US-based International Republican Institute, which conducted a poll across all four Pakistani provinces over ten days in January 2008, found the PPP leading, with 50% of those sampled saying they

So far, so planned

I meet with Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner to the UK and former High Commissioner to Norway, Abdul Basit. Debonair and sophisticated, he’s a career diplomat from the Foreign Service.  He ponders likely election outcomes. “Most likely it’s going to be a coalition after February 18th  … a hung parliament, no single party will win. It’s

The supporters and opponents of vote-rigging

Unlike in, say, American politics, pre-elections polls are bit thin on the ground in Pakistan. The results of one, however, have been published by the Dawn. Conducted during January 2008, the US-based Terror Free Tomorrow poll finds that 70 % of Pakistanis want President Pervez Musharraf to quit, and that the PPP is the most

Another day, another bomb

In the troubled North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, a bomb exploded on Saturday during an election rally, allegedly the work of a suicide bomber. So far, 25 are reported killed and many more injured. With polling day just around the corner, this shows conclusively that Musharraf’s promise to deliver a “peaceful” election was nothing

Moving on from mourning…

As the mourning period for assassinated former Prime Minister and Pakistan Peoples’ Party leader Benazir Bhutto closes, various leaders from her party have been speaking. Asif Ali Zardari, her husband, is co-chairing with her son Bilawal. Zardari says he is not standing as a candidate in the election. He may have his hopes set on

All together now | 8 February 2008

Condy, Hamid and David holding hands in Afghanistan on Thursday. Friends kissing and making up after naughty President Karzai was unruly. Time to pow-wow, not about the Afghans dying in the freezing cold, but about the NATO forces, recently described as being in a “Strategic stalemate” by a former commander Trouble is brewing at the

81 million voters “enabled”

Pakistani officials keep telling us that all is rosy for the upcoming elections.  The Election Commission of Pakistan, which is overseeing procedure on February 18th, has announced that it will “enable” around 81 million to vote.  While the Punjab province President of the PML (Q) pro-Musharraf party spoke on Tuesday about reforms, which mean that there is “no

Will a mellower Musharraf win over the voters?

If this family interview with Pakistan Television is anything to go by, President Musharraf is doing cuddly. The interview’s mainly in Urdu, but I thought Coffee Housers might like to catch a rare glimpse of Pakistan’s first family at home in Karachi. Speedy synopsis (in English!): the President believes that “Sleeping is a waste of