Thursday, May 23, 2002
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By K.K. Katyal
In the midst of many unhappy trends in domestic politics, there is one area which is a source of satisfaction all-party support to the Government in the efforts to deal effectively with cross-border terrorism, of which the Jammu massacre was the latest manifestation. This contrasts sharply with the adversarial relationship between the Musharraf Government and the entire political establishment in Pakistan.
In India, the political parties spelt out their stand during the parliamentary debate on May 11 and in the subsequent individual meetings of the Leader of the Opposition, Sonia Gandhi, and others with the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee. In both the cases, the pledges of support transcended party lines. Of course, in doing so, the Opposition side did not hesitate from focusing on the Government's acts of omission and commission: its leaders called upon the Government to evolve a comprehensive strategy and not resort to strong words because rhetoric to quote Ms. Gandhi is no substitute for strategy and vision. Most Opposition leaders counselled restraint the CPI(M) leader, Somnath Chatterjee, for instance, wanted the Government to adopt a mature response and refrain from jingoism. As against that, some from within the ruling combine called for a military response. These diverse statements did not come in the way of adoption of a resolution, affirming the nation's commitment to end the menace of terrorism.
The spirit of unanimity, hopefully, would endure in the crucial phase ahead when concrete decisions are taken and the much-awaited strategy is spelt out. Given the logic of consensus, the Government ought to be guided by collective wisdom, taking into account the Opposition plea for tampering firmness with moderation.
The tender sapling of unanimity, it is hoped, will not be affected by the fallout of domestic controversies on sensitive subjects such as Gujarat on which the Opposition had taken a tough line against the Government and will continue to do so. Under a compartmentalised approach, the Opposition, while keeping up its indictment of the Government on several domestic issues, will be extending firm backing on terrorism-related matters.
In Pakistan, on the other hand, the political parties of all hues and complexions did not soften their resolve, to quote the daily Dawn, to pull down the military regime through a sustained struggle despite the tense situation on the borders. An All-Parties Conference (APC) held in Lahore earlier this week was unsparing in its attacks on the Government, even as it warned India to desist from committing aggression against Pakistan as the ``democratic and patriotic forces'' were united to defend the country.
Here are the salient points of the reports on the conference. It rejected the ``stage-managed'' April 30 Presidential referendum, urging Pervez Musharraf to immediately resign from all his ``de facto'' positions and hand over power to a neutral caretaker government which should, on the one hand, unite the nation to face the challenge posed by India and, on the other, hold fair and free elections. It called for appointment of a full-time Army Chief who would devote his attention to the country's defence and meet the threat to national security and territorial integrity.
The APC leaders replied in the negative to a questioner at a press conference that the demand for Gen. Musharraf's resignation at this juncture would endanger the country's defence. ``Gen. Musharraf stands discredited and lacks the stature and moral authority to deal with the current threat,'' according to an APC resolution. ``We expect the international community,'' it said, ``to uphold the aspirations of the people of Pakistan for restoration of democracy, fundamental human rights, the constitutional orders.''
The dynamics of a democracy and military rule present a study in contrast even in a phase of emergency.
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