A study in somersaults

  • Political parties must show maturity and constancy     

Mian Manzoor Wattoo, active in politics since 1983 with hat-tricks as Punjab chief minister and provincial Assembly Speaker, as well as heading federal ministries, has found promising political pastures anew. The nearly 80 year old veteran’s last haunt since 2008 was PPP, as its senior office bearer and contentious Punjab chief, courtesy chairman Asif Zardari’s personal intervention and interest. This extremely unpopular choice among party diehards, combined with Zardari’s wheeling-dealing ways, ‘live and let live’ two-party policy and the PPP’s failure to deliver on the ground, made its Punjab shipwreck in the 2013 general elections almost a mathematical certainty. But the shrewd operator from Okara has, with a huge measure of worldly success, gone through the typical Pakistani political grindstone, with pendulum-like swings from parties and leaders, changes in loyalty, somewhat optimistic formation of his own party, facing and surviving no-confidence motions, being sentenced by an Accountability Court (I0 years in prison and Rs10 million fine), but escaping punishment via ‘gracious voiced’ expensive lawyers in an appeals court.

The political head, with two of his children also in the PTI, who was in revolt against the PPP since 2018 elections, has now reportedly ditched it and on Sunday jumped on the ruling party bandwagon. That in itself hardly results in raised eyebrows, but what causes much head-scratching is the grand manner of his entrée in the ‘naya’ Pakistan, anti-corruption, anti-dynastic crusading party, which constantly boasts of and highlights its youthful activists. High-level PTI leaders sought out and formally invited Wattoo to join the fold, offered him a national assembly seat up for by-election in the bargain, and no doubt rejoiced at netting another ‘electable’, one who actually lost as an independent candidate in 2018. Equally disappointing is the abandoned PPP’s lukewarm response in not taking strict disciplinary action against a top insider with access to party secrets, and offering weak, vague and even pseudo-philosophical explanations for the defection instead. Unless political parties follow a strict code against induction of so-called electables, rejecting the policy of self-serving short gain, the charade of political musical-chairs will remain a farcical part of the country’s culture.