A League of their own


The PML(N) has an identity crisis. This is but natural. A party that was midwifed by the military is bound to have issues when it jettisons the institution and joins the pro-democracy, anti-army route. But the episteme remains the same. The approach towards the people, development and the democratic process remains the same. So while the League might, at times, display a near Oedipal rage against its father institution, the statements its leaders make might as well have been given by the retired servicemens association. For instance, the content of its tirades against the ruling Peoples Party, if listened to seriously, seems to mirror that of the establishments views on the latter.

Apart from this genuine crisis, there is, of course, the plain, old-fashioned selfishness: it wants to have its cake and eat it too. The League wants to play the role of the opposition while enjoying power in the province that is bigger than all the rest combined. Instead of taking responsibility for failures in governing the province, it passes the buck on to the federal government. Law and order is a provincial subject when the Chief Minister wants to appoint his trigger-happy boys in charcoal but Rehman Malik is to be blamed whenever there is a terrorist attack in the province.

Then, there is a dichotomy on another front. One that is far more basic. Far from confusion about its placement on the political spectrum or its wish to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds on the governance front, the League is confused about whether it is a political party at all. A strange thing to say about the countrys second largest political force but its predisposition for long marches and recourse to the courts on almost all matters yields the realization that it doesnt want to solve any problem politically but either on the streets or through other institutions. Those other institutions are the courts at the moment but there are other options out there. Old habits might be hard to kill.