Punjab: The key to the centre

0
67

A tough nut to crack though

It is surely going to be an interesting and unpredictable election year full of fierce campaigning by political parties old and new. The PML-N has suffered multiple blows to its vote bank with one upset after another and is unlikely to manage a simple majority this time around. Nawaz Sharif’s ouster and lifetime ban from holding public office was the beginning, quickly followed by the Faizabad debacle and the latest being the embarrassing rebellion and subsequent defeat in Balochistan.

All eyes are now on Punjab as the opposition forms all sorts of unnatural alliances with a singular agenda of somehow getting Shahbaz Sharif to either resign or meet the same fate as his brother. If that were to transpire it would blow the elections wide open, as the PML-N would find it difficult to win Punjab let alone make a government at the centre with both Sharifs out of the picture.

However if the PAT (Pakistan Awami Tehreek), PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf), PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) and PML-Q (Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid) joint opposition rally on Lahore’s Mall road on Wednesday is any indication, that mission is far from accomplished and is not going to be a walk in the park.

Qadri’s modus operandi is obvious – enter Pakistan when the political situation is tense and raise the temperature to make the ruling party uneasy and eager to get rid of him at any cost. The current political landscape is ideal for Qadri to exercise his opportunistic part time politics

The outing simply lacked the expected turnout as displayed by the empty seats at the event. In addition to this the leaders of PTI and PPP could not even share the same stage. Asif Ali Zardari made his unenergetic and monotonous speech and immediately left for Imran Khan to take the stage.

Ostensibly the cause for this alliance is a last ditch effort at getting justice for the victims of the Model Town carnage of 2014 that took the lives of 14 PAT workers as a result of indiscriminate firing by the Punjab police. PAT Chairman Tahir-ul-Qadri has remained inconsistent in his efforts to get justice for his deceased party workers and has therefore gained the reputation of being a shifty and untrustworthy character with hidden motives.

Qadri’s modus operandi is obvious – enter Pakistan when the political situation is tense and raise the temperature to make the ruling party uneasy and eager to get rid of him at any cost. The current political landscape is ideal for Qadri to exercise his opportunistic part time politics.

The Model Town incident is something all opposition parties can get behind. It provides an opportunity to — as Qadri puts it — ‘eliminate’ the Sharifs from Pakistan’s political scene’. However truth be told none of the party leaders in this alliance including Qadri genuinely feels so strongly about the Model Town issue – it is just politics.

With the Hudaibiya case as good as dead there is nothing comparable to the Panama case thus far that could result in Shahbaz Sharif being disqualified from his current post and barred from contesting the coming elections. As things stand he is the PML-N’s number one contender for prime minister and there are no more Sharif’s left after him that the party as a whole is willing to fully support.

Shahbaz having some sort of a spontaneous realignment of his moral compass and resigning is near impossible. Maybe a law and order situation similar to the one in Faizabad is created in Punjab and the only way to settle things is for the CM to step down and he is made to do so. But given the level of disharmony and lack of unity within this three party (PAT, PTI, PPP) opposition alliance no such outcome seems likely.

It seems the physical metaphor for this reality (the empty seats) at the grand rally was too much for Imran Khan to take forcing him to express his disdain for the parliament by repeating “Laanat aisi parliament par” (curse this parliament).

There has been condemnation from the ruling party and more notably the PPP that has distanced itself from the statement made my Khan during his speech. But why would Imran Khan have any other view about a parliament that he has never accepted since the elections in 2013 and has therefore rarely attended?

This is not to say that Nawaz Sharif during his three odd years as leader of the house made any efforts to strengthen this vital institution. He would only attend National Assembly sessions when it was absolutely necessary. In the process a weakened parliament has emerged that sporadically passes any meaningful legislation.

Going into these elections there is a confused opposition so far unable to come up with a concrete plan to achieve their goal of creating a political environment that forces an early election. The Sharifs should realistically be more worried about the sentiments of members within their party especially after what happened in Balochistan. Whatever transpires in the coming days, hopefully it is within the acceptable limits of our constitution.