Muhammad Najeeb

Islamabad, May 19:

There were kudos aplenty in Pakistan Wednesday for India’s Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her decision not to become prime minister with papers leading with the story and experts comparing her to Mahatma Gandhi. Most commentators eulogised Gandhi’s decision saying it would go a long way in strengthening the political system in India. “By doing so she has attained the status of Mother India and has strengthened the political system,” said Hamid Rafiq, a political science professor. He said after BJP’s statement that they would boycott her oath-taking ceremony, there were suspicions that the former ruling party may create hurdles in the smooth functioning of the government because of Gandhi’s foreign origin. “She needs a big salute from the Indian people in particular and the world in general that she has done a great job towards democracy,” said Rafiq.

Political commentator Islam Ansari said her decision had made her a stateswoman. “I believe she has reached the status of Mahatma Gandhi by doing so,” said Ansari, adding that after this no one could stop her son Rahul Gandhi from becoming a prime minister in the next elections after five years. When asked if the decision would affect the ongoing peace process with Pakistan, foreign office spokesman Masood Khan briefly said: “Let’s not hope so.” He, however, refused to comment on the situation saying it was Indian’s internal matter.The Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt in its top story said Gandhi’s decision was in the right direction and history would remember her for her service to the people of India.

“Her decision comes as a surprise just as her party’s win was a surprise,” said the paper.

The largest Urdu daily, Jang, said Gandhi’s decision had not only supported the democratic system but also dented the system of dynastic rule that prevailed in South Asian countries.

“This is not the first time that she has taken such a decision... Her role in politics need to commended,” said the paper. “Sonia’s decline to accept the prime ministership puts India in crisis,” Jang’s top story read. It said Gandhi’s decision would mean that the next Indian government would be weak and may not survive for long. English language newspapers also gave the story top play. “Sonia shocks India”, read The Nation’s lead headline. The Dawn gave the story in seven columns along with Sonia’s picture, quite unusual for the paper that normally follows a traditional layout. The News also carried pictures of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, who are likely to be the Congress choice to head the coalition government.