Support Gilani and His Ambitious Agenda
By Sher Ali
UC Riverside, CA

Our latest Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani spoke with great charisma recently. Though his ideas were met with some mixed reaction he found unanimous support in his awareness of the issues. In releasing the judges, he quickly won the respect of the now active civil society and the lawyers community. Yusuf Raza Gilani showed he was a polished man with a strong fist to invoke immediate changes in policy. At this oath-taking ceremony, we saw black arm bands against the president who was administering the oath. Many members of the newly elected cabinet spent times in jail or house arrest. The civil society and the lawyers have shown restraint but continue to use creative and peaceful methods to bring accountability to the new ruling coalition.
The fifty-five year old Gilani has been a staunch supporter of the PPP. As a former speaker of the house under Benazir Bhutto in 1993, Gilani is a candidate who  was also acceptable to Nawaz Sharif who was against Makhdoom Fahim.
Gilani surprised everyone with his announcement to abolish the Frontier Crimes Regulation. It came as an interesting proposal as the FATA region has been settled in such a way that tribes fix their own problems. In the past the FCR has been criticized for its rather ruthless nature of law. The problem that has arisen by the proposal to abolish the FCR is that following the announcement there could be a backlash. In the Federal areas, the common man will most likely accept this authority but the religious extremists will most likely want Shariah law to replace the FCR. The other issues that plague the tribal scene are the colonial treaties which were signed during the time of the British Raj. These treaties have been in place for hundreds of years. Their legality will also come into question. Either way, a hasty resolve to abolish  the FCR could lead to a Pandora box of problems. The best idea seems collaboration of the educated and interested minds who understand the underlying and core issues to find a unified solution for the future.
The coming months will be crucial for Prime Minister Gilani as the current economic downfall is directly correlated to the price of energy and lack of agricultural economy. The common man is struggling to find the basic needs and the cost of living is sky-rocketing at an astronomical pace. These extreme conditions will lead to more crime and smuggling through the porous borders.
The Prime Minister  was deservedly applauded for raising the minimum wage  to 6000 rupees a month. But workers and laborers termed the raise as band aid for a bullet wound. The cost of living continues to rise appreciably. The newly elected Prime Minister has allowed the unions to function freely and protest for better conditions. This means the businesses will probably protest the increase in wages.
The refreshing thing about Gilani’s initial address was that he decided to cut some of the famous government perks by cutting the house budget by 40 percent. This is extremely pleasing as the country is experiencing difficult times and an example should be set by the government leaders. His addition of Prime minister questioning hour seems an  interesting way to engage the public in question and answer session about the issues.
The Prime Minister did fail to speak directly about the expelled judges. That seemed to be a worrying thing for the lawyers community and the civil society. Both groups have shown extreme restraint in the way they protested. Recently, when the judges were released, the former Chief Justice received a hero’s welcome. So the issue regarding the judges is still relevant. The failure to address this issue irked the PML-N that has consistently stood behind the judges. Aitzaz Ahsan, the leader of the lawyers, has been extremely forthcoming by saying that if the judges aren’t restored they will take to  the streets. More instability is something the new prime minister can do without. One must remember that the lawyers movement has kept these PPP and PML-N honest.
 In the end, by setting up an ambitious agenda, Gilani has won united support. It is crucial for the morale of the country that Gilani does not back down from his ambitious agenda. That would be extremely detrimental for a man who can quite easily change Pakistan’s fortunes.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.