Talk of roundtable talks

EDITORIAL: Talk of roundtable talks

Daily Times Lahore


Taking into account the major issues plaguing the country, with crisis upon crisis stymying any economic and political progress, President Asif Ali Zardari has proposed a parliamentary parties roundtable conference to chalk out solutions for some of these mega problems. The president has already spoken to key political leaders such as those belonging to the JUI-F, MQM, PML-Q and others in an attempt to round up support for the talks. It has been reported that the PML-N, when it was told about the president’s proposal, was in a meeting of its own being chaired by Mian Nawaz Sharif. One cannot help but appreciate the president’s sense of timing as this meeting was being held to prepare an all out assault on the PPP government for not implementing the PML-N’s 10-point agenda as quickly as the opposition would have liked. Now that the president has proposed a conference on a national level, it is hoped that the PML-N will take into account that the only way to have their agenda adopted will be to have more broad-based consensus with a number of parties, including on the economic reforms package that the PML-N has proposed. However, as is the case with our seemingly ‘friendly’ opposition, it even found fault in this by levelling the accusation that the PPP was skirting around the 45-day deadline by employing delaying tactics. One would like to remind the PML-N that the government has started implementing some of the PML-N’s recommendations, one of which was the trimming down of cabinet flab.

Accusations and petty politics aside, it must be stated that Pakistan is not going to pull itself out of its current morass on its own. The fact that President Zardari has taken the initiative by calling this conference is quite telling in many ways. It is being said that although the country is in duress, it is the Raymond Davis affair that has proved to be the final nail in an already overburdened coffin. However, it must also be taken into account that the economic crisis and the threatened political fracturing of the coalition were now coming to a head and such an initiative probably became inescapable. President Zardari may have a personal interest as his upcoming visit to the US in March could be impeded due to the Davis affair, but it is in everyone’s interest to have our key political leaders sitting together at one table, discussing the common problems. In the interest of national security, the money we depend on the US for to keep our fragile economy afloat in the broader context of the war on terror, Raymond Davis’s release may prove unavoidable. If his diplomatic immunity is proved, we should let the matter go at that — for the greater good. It is also being speculated that the PPP government is consolidating its position before the next elections, whether two years down the line or before. The appointment of a PPP stalwart, Syed Masood Kausar, as Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is giving rise to the suspicion that the PPP is preparing for an early election. On the other hand, the PPP may just intuitively be inviting this round of talks in an attempt to bridge the gap that exists between itself and other parties.

As far as our economic problems go, there have existed, in the past, sufficient obstacles in the RGST issue with the PML-N and the MQM taking a ferociously opposed stance. Now that talks may be on the table, it is possible that this economic reform gains its much-needed consensus. All in all, this conference has been a long time coming and the proposal must see fruition so that some solid solutions are brought forward with consensus and are implemented to better our crippling conditions. *