New Government Coalition Settled, Gilani Speech

The final barriers to full coalition in Pakistan have fallen with agreement on ministers, and a historic mark was set with unanimous support from the National Assembly.  Today the new Prime Minister address the joint houses of Government in Pakistan to outline the new government’s policies and direction.

He put forth a sweeping agenda that will win a great deal of support from the populace if it is carried through with.He did state that Terrorism was the major concern of the nation, but at the same time has said that the government is willing to negotiate with the terrorists to achieve peace. (I’ll have more on that after I cover the rest of his speech)

The major points are bulleted below, full details in this article:

    The deposed Justices will be reinstated
    ?The black laws in the Frontiers will be repealed
    Government will go on an austerity campaign
    ?Pemra ordinance will be repealed
    ?Frontier Control Regulations will be repealed
    ?Ends the ban on student and trade unions
    Support for Wheat price controls will go in place

The Army will quit civilian agencies with a few exigent exceptionsBelow is my analysis, remember I could be wrong; indeed my wife tells me that I am quite often… 

I’m in favor of all of this except perhaps the wheat price controls in principle. It does not speak to land reforms, which are really needed as well. (Most property concentrated in the hands of a few families – structure really left from colonial days.) It also omits anything about energy and what Pakistan plans to do, which is the next greatest problem next to Terror. That said, these reforms will bring problems and challenges.

I’ve marked the items the Taliban will like with a ( ? ), as they present large challenges for the new government. The TTP, or Pakistan Taliban of Baitullah Mehsud, has already applauded the speech, as noted by their spokesman, Maulvi Umar   in this article.

In principle I favor the changes for different reasons than the Taliban – and my favor rests completely on the new Government’s ability to follow through. If they merely remove the old and don’t actively replace with new, then these goals will fail dramatically, and cause serious fracturing of a Pakistani state that’s already fissured deeply.

If the “black laws” are swept aside without suitable replacement it’s a problem.  Black laws are leftovers of British Colonial rule – they effectively enable corporate punishment for one person’s misdeed to an entire family or tribe, as noted in this article, and the recent razing of Mullah Fazlullah’s compound. While this punishes Fazlullah, it also punishes his family as well.

Removal of the black laws leaves a vacuum – into which the Taliban hope to insert their version of Sharia, which would be a step backwards to medieval from the harsh black laws. (We all know how Taliban sharia works – CD shops that support them get to sell anything they want, people who don’t support them get their shops burnt down for selling the same CD’s. Another example besides the protection racketeering of the Taliban is how they handle dissent  – if you disagree then you might get hung as a spie, or your wife or daughter could be branded a whore and beheaded in the village square.)

The other effect of Black Law and FCR removal is to remove the power of the current Tribal leaders, the only force that keeps the Taliban from entirely owning the frontiers now. (The army is good only for occasional punitive expeditions.) 

So to maintain writ, the government has to replace both the FCR’s as well as Black laws with standard law, and they must supply personnel and infrastructure (police, courts, law and order.) Otherwise they remove the power structure and create a vacuum into which Al Qaeda and the Taliban will be happy to flow. 

The Taliban and Al Qaeda are also happy about removal of the PEMRA ordinance, which originally was drafted to control Mullah Radio (Fazlullah’s) illegal FM stations. Musharraf abused the ordinance to stifle dissent during the run up to the elections, and it has to go one way or another.  

The Taliban also likes the lifting on the ban of student organizations and trade unions, as this will allow them to create front groups in urban areas with greater ease (like SIMI in the Kashmir.)

The wheat price supports will not work due to other factors such as high energy costs driving up food production and transport costs while the low dollar drives down price. Skyrocketing production costs plus lower profit simply means that less wheat and other food will be grown worldwide, and the low dollar ensures less will be exported from the US. Eventually we will see famine again if those conditions continue much longer. Wheat price controls help the food scarcity conditions continue. 

The Government Austerity measures will help. They will be popular and restore faith in the Central government. They will reduce costs, however not lighting shrines on Holidays isn’t going to stave off load shedding or pay the overdue energy bills. 

Update: Further Thoughts now that I’ve slept on this.

If the Gilani/Sharif anti-terror initiatives are posture rather than firm stance and therefor fail, we will likely see an uptick in cross-border insurgency, and perhaps even increased support for the Kashmiri Intifada and interdiction of supplies to Afghanistan.
If they are real, then we will see a temporary lull in terrorist activity in Pakistan, and then a huge uptick as the measures are put in place.
What I can predict is that we should plan to stitch the borders more tightly closed now in the short window of opportunity; penning the jihadis in Pakistan where they will need to deal with the nest of vipers they’ve nourished. Much easier said than done since Iran opens and closes passage from Pakistan to Afghanistan dependent on Achmadinejad’s mood.

If the new government does not deal with the Jihadi stranglehold on the frontiers they will continue to fall behind as the economy falters due to strangled trade with two neighbors. If the initiatives fail to result in decreased cross-border insurgency and fewer foreign terrorists hosted in Pakistan then the aid to Pakistan should be stopped an funneled to Afghanistan instead, indeed, that position should be made clear now.