Editorial : Parting of ways - Saturday, February 26, 2011

Source : http://dawn.com/2011/02/26/parting-of-ways.html

THE decision by the PML-N leadership to expel the PPP members from the Punjab cabinet has raised more questions than it has answered. Some context and background here are necessary. In the past, the PPP can rightly be faulted for making promises and then delaying their implementation, thereby forcing the hand of the party`s interlocutors to part ways. But the 10-point agenda offered some hope that a break could be made from the politics of the past. For one, the agenda was relatively narrow, focusing as it did on issues pertaining to the economy. For another, progress on the implementation of the 10 points appeared to have been promising. Indeed, if the comments of some in the PML-N leadership, particularly Senator Ishaq Dar, were to be carefully analysed no fundamental or serious differences can be discerned. It seems the PPP and the PML-N were genuinely edging closer to an agreement on even the more intractable issues in the 10-point agenda.

And yet, the PML-N and the PPP now appear set for another potentially destabilising round of adversarial politics. Is a definitive `clash` now inevitable? At this point, it is difficult to say. Was the 10-point agenda a ruse, a politically expedient way for the PML-N to demonstrate it genuinely `cares` about governance issues while having no real intention to help fix the structural problems afflicting the economy? Have the hawks in the PML-N camp finally prevailed? Is the ultimate aim to force electionsbefore the government completes its term? At this point, it isn`t even clear if mid-term elections are possible. Senator Raza Rabbani dismissed the possibility yesterday inhis response on the PPP`s behalf, but the first lesson of Pakistani politics is that stability is far more elusive than incumbents hope. Even if there were to be mid-term elections, what is the guarantee that elections won`t lead to further bad blood? If the PPP has been unreasonable and some of its leaders have made harsh comments against the PML-N in the past, the PML-N`s invitation to the `turncoats` to come back into the party fold marks a move away from `principled politics`, something the PML-N has championed in recent years.

No analysis of the political landscape in Pakistan would be complete without reference to forces which believe in extra-constitutional action. Before the PML-N and the PPP embark on a damaging new round of accusations and recriminations, the leaders of the two parties may want to consider who could be a logical winner from anything that launches the two largest political parties in Pakistan on the warpath against each other.

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