Brinkmanship

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The PPP and PML(Q) have reportedly reached an agreement on toppling the PML(N) government in Punjab through vote of no confidence. This is bound to revive in many the bitter memories of the 1988-99 period ending in a military coup. But will the PPP be willing to pay the price demanded by the PML(Q), which is the post of the provinces chief minister for the PML(Q) nominee?

The PPP can maintain that the battle was actually initiated by the PML(N) by failing to fulfill the promises related to the division of ministries and full powers for the PPP ministers. Further, that the PML(N) subsequently kept on demanding that the PPP withdraw from the coalition. The PML(N) claims that the PPP imposed Governors rule in the province during which it tried hard to set up a government of its own with the help of the PML(Q). What is known to all is that the Governor on the one hand and the provincial law minister on the other have never spared a moment to malign each others leadership. While Mian Nawaz Sharif has sent proposals to improve governance, there has been no respite to the attacks on the PPP top brass by the Leader of the Opposition.

Whatever their allegations and counter allegations, any struggle of the kind will allow two institutions, the judiciary and military establishment, to expand their turf at the expense of the politicians. What is more, the tussle will give birth to a new wave of horse-trading. Legal issues arising out of the stand taken by the 45 member Q League forward bloc in Punjab, presently supporting the PML(N), are bound to land up at Lahore High Court and ultimately at the Supreme Court. The PML(Q) will have to try to win over dissidents in the party who are reportedly split over unity with the PPP, with promises of ministries and other rewards, further impairing governance which is already in a bad shape. Soon after hostilities start in Punjab, they are bound to be extended to the center also, threatening to dismantle the entire system. The tussle as it intensifies would draw in the final arbiters, with unpredictable results.