New PM, but Pak remains the same

Kamna Arora

So, nothing has changed in Pakistan. Despite the fact that the South Asian country has got a new PM, political crisis in Pakistan is far from being over.

Raja Pervez Ashraf, who has been elected the 25th Prime Minister of Pakistan, has a chequered past, which definitely needs scrutiny.

On June 22, Pervez Ashraf, 61, was chosen to fill the spot left vacant by Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was disqualified as prime minister by the country’s Supreme Court on June 19. Gilani had refused to initiate a corruption probe against his ‘boss’, President Asif Ali Zardari, and soon was forced to face the music by the activist court.

Ashraf, who comes from a family of agriculturists, seems to have got his reward for being a staunch loyalist of the Bhutto family. But what about the hoi polloi of Pakistan? Why should they suffer at the hands of corrupt leaders again and again?

The issue of corruption has surely taken a toll on political stability in Pakistan. The country was in deep chaos a day before Raja Pervez Ashraf was chosen as the PM when outgoing textile minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin, who was first nominated as ruling Pakistan People’s Party candidate to replace Gilani, was hit by an arrest warrant for his role in a drug import scandal. It is the same case in which Gilani’s son, Ali Musa Gilani, is allegedly involved. The elder son of ex-PM, Abdul Qadir Gilani, has also been linked to a scam in the arrangement of the Haj pilgrimage.

Almost taunting the hyper-activist court, the ruling PPP has nominated Abdul Qadir Gilani to contest the by-poll from his father’s Parliamentary constituency in Multan, Punjab, scheduled for July 19.

Much to the dismay of the Pakistani people, who are fed up with the culture of corruption in their country, Ashraf, also known as “Raja Rental”, adds to their woes.

In 2011, Ashraf’s alleged involvement in USD 1.5 billion `rental power` (short-term power stations) project scam during his reign as water and power minister earned him the nickname “Raja Rental”.

The case was also heard by the Supreme Court and a ruling is pending.

Of late, a harsh summer has led to violent protests across Punjab over the electricity shortages. What is the PPP’s logic in nominating for the PM post a man whose ministry had failed to ease a crippling energy crisis?

Ashraf was nothing but a disaster as a water and power minister. Now, when he is the premier of Pakistan, power crisis is one of his main priorities!

Seriously, why did the PPP choose Ashraf? Which political calculation led to his election is still unclear. The general elections are not far and power crisis is definitely a key issue. Will people forget Ashraf’s disastrous role and forgive him for power outages they are suffering?

The charges against Ashraf in the rental power scam may well come to the fore again. This will surely not help the PPP in the forthcoming elections.

And how can one expect that the corrupt himself would take action against corruption? Ashraf’s election must have infuriated the Supreme Court even more. Petitions have been moved in the court requesting it to issue directions to Ashraf to write to the Swiss authorities asking them to reopen the cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Needless to say that Ashraf is expected by Zardari to defy court orders. Will the court disqualify him too? The question must be bothering many minds, but none has the answer.