Pakistans Four Provincial Legislatures

*Pakistan’s four provincial legislatures voted for 80 members of the Federal Senate, and the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) and its allies, who control the lower house, seem close to having a simple majority in the upper chamber. Some of the seats were distributed to “technocrats” and women who ran unopposed, their party affiliations determined by how well parties did in the elections for the lower house of parliament. In a continued sign that the Northwest Frontier Province is politically unpredictable these days, three independents routed the Pakistan People’s Party. If PML-Q can cobble together a majority in the Senate, Prime Minister Mir Zafrullah Jamali will have a good chance of remaining in power some time and getting something done in the legislature. Even deputies from parties opposed to his do not wish to see his government fall or become unstable, because they are determined to keep the army from coming back in and declaring martial law again.

Meanwhile, there is some good economic news. The balance of trade surplus has grown, and the pace of economic growth has again picked up after the doldrums induced by last year’s war in Afghanistan (when Pakistan grew only about 1.5%, down substantially from the 5% per annum it used to achieve).

*Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz addressed a town meeting in Dearborn, near Detroit, of Iraqi Americans concerned about US plans for their mother country. “It’s not going to be handed over to some junior Saddam Hussein,” he told the heavily Shiite group of about 300. “We’re not interested in replacing one dictator with another dictator.” He promised that an Iraqi democracy would emerge. Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post reported that Wolfowitz got heavy applause from the audience when he called Saddam one of the most evil rulers of the past 100 years. He said the Pentagon hoped Iraqi-Americans would join the military reserves and agree to use their talents in helping the US military in Iraq.

*Frantic US consuls in embassies throughout the world have been sending urgent cables to Washington warning the US government that in many countries President George W. Bush is seen as a greater threat to world peace than Saddam Hussein.

*Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf called on the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Kuala Lampur to help resolve hot spots such as Palestine and Kashmir. His statement drew an angry rebuke from Indian PM Vajpayee, who tore up his original remarks and insisted that bilateral issues should not be brought up at the conference. He was supported in this stance by the conference’s Malaysian hosts.