Maliki’s unending task

Iraq’s government formation seems to be an effort spread over almost a year. The inconclusive elections in March are yet to see a logical end as political parties and allies are now busy wrangling over cabinet portfolios. Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, who is supposed to have completed the cabinet nomination task by Saturday, seems to be in deep trouble in persuading his allies to agree to specific portfolios.

This antagonism on the floor of the house has come as a set back in efforts to form a unity government. Maliki who has successfully held his breath while addressing the tricky issues of proving his majority in a divided house now has to do some delicate balancing. Bringing on board all sections of political thought and as part of the cabinet is more a political task than one of public relationeering. Maliki, who has treaded a neutral path while dealing with the US and Iran can do well by persuading his allies that serving national interests at this stage is more important than addressing issues of political exigencies.

Maliki’s prime task should be to ensure communal harmony, and see to it that various feuding Shia and Sunni factions get along with each other and the growing restlessness in Kurdish areas is addressed in all sincerity. A number of suicide blasts and sniper attacks have unnerved the people, who for quite some time had enjoyed relative peace. This growing lawlessness is an issue which will bring with it political connotations with the passage of time resulting in administrative disarray. The war-weary country cannot withstand civil commotion, especially at times when the cushion of foreign forces will be withdrawn by the middle of next year.

Maliki’s shrewdness would not be in striking a power-sharing deal with his allies and adversaries, but in keeping at bay unscrupulous elements who are out there in the rank and file of religious and ethnic groups to derail the process of nation building and rapprochement. The resurgence of Al Qaeda and like minded groups desperately recruiting in the last many months is not a good omen to say the least. It hints at their capacity to fight back, and adapt with the ground realities when pushed to the wall. This is why any fissures or perceptional dissent in the society will come as an opportunity for the militants to make inroads under various pretexts. Maliki’s first tenure cabinet had done a laudable job of restoring people’s confidence in civil governance; this cabinet should register new hallmarks in ensuring transparency and stability in state business.

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