Everyone wants a piece of TUQ

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  • Another jolt for PML-N

Yesterday, the entire senior Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) leadership sat with Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) chief Tahir-ul-Qadri to formally announce something that needed no formal announcement. That the two parties are joining hands to demand the resignation of the Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, failing which, they would lockdown Lahore after the December 31 deadline.

Of course this was coming the moment the Punjab government made Justice Baqar Najavi’s report on the 2014 Model Town massacre public on December 6. But what wasn’t quite as obvious at the time – although hindsight might suggest otherwise – is the sheer length of the queue of political party leaders all of whom want a piece of TUQ.

This is epitomised by the fact that it was the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) cochairman Asif Ali Zarfari that got the first piece in the immediate aftermath of the report being made public. Of course, it was the same Zardari and PPP campaign for whose dissolution actually made Qadri relevant again in Pakistani politics five years ago.

Among those queuing up to join hands with Qadri are the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), Jamaat-e-Islami and Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen. Even former prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, met with Qadri last week.

There are two main reasons for seemingly universal wooing of Qadri this winter. First, is that the cause that he is the centre of is one that can be interpreted as purely humanitarian. For, there is and cannot be any justification for what happened on June 17, 2014.

14 innocent people were brutally killed by police officials, and just how blatant the crime is can be gauged by the fact that even the Punjab government and its representatives haven’t even tried to colour it in a conspiring shade, and have only tried to shift the blame to a non-existent realm.

Among those queuing up to join hands with Qadri are the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), Jamaat-e-Islami and Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen. Even former prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, met with Qadri last week

Second is the fact that the battleground is now well and truly Punjab and its capital Lahore. It is countering the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) hegemony in Punjab that is the one-point strategy for every other party in the province, most notably the PTI that has run the ruling party close in by-elections throughout the past four years.

Similarly, the PPP has made no secret of how it wants to ally with the likes of Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen, JUI-P, Sunni Tehreek, along with now the PAT in Punjab, to improve its abysmal showing in the province this decade.

Of course, both PTI and PPP maintain that they can never join hands. And while both want to take the moral high ground and peddle ‘principle’ as the reason, the simple cause is pure statistical politics.

The voters in Punjab that the PTI has successfully captured can be broadly divided into two camps. First, are the first-time, or non-, voters that finally started going to the election booths to exercise their say in running the country. The second are the former PPP voters that, in their historic animosity towards PML-N, and due to persistently being let down by the People’s Party, now see the PTI as a more viable option.

Hence, allying with one another would perhaps mean the PPP letting go of its chance to win back its voters, and the PTI showing the voters that felt betrayed by the People’s Party to begin with, the way out.

Similarly, the fact that the leaders of parties like the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) want to ally with the PAT is both owing to their bid to become more relevant in Punjab, and also drag the cause to Sindh if need be.

But what is there for all to see that parties from all over the ideological spectrum are coming together, with the PAT as its spine, to give the PML-N yet another jolt.

Should Qadri successfully implement the manoeuvres in Punjab, the aftershocks for the PML-N government could be bigger than Panama and Faizabad combined.

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