Going national - Basil Nabi Malik - Friday, March 04, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=34283&Cat=9

At the start of the third year of the PPP government, the political brinksmanship of the two largest parties of the country is at its climax. The resizing of the Federal Cabinet, the respective stances of the Federal and Punjab governments with regard to Raymond Davis, the 10 point agenda of the PML-N, the ouster of the PPP from the Punjab government, and the fact that Senate elections are to take place early next year, have all fueled speculations that the opposition is likely to push for elections this year. However, the question at the moment is not whether political temperatures should rise to the level whereby a fresh mandate would be required from the public, but rather whether the major opposition party, namely the PML-N, is ready for any such eventuality.

In these past three years, the PML-N’s biggest achievement may very well be its capacity to mobilise the public in the form of the restoration of the Judiciary. Traditionally viewed as an establishment party, the mobilisation of the people against that very establishment and its perceived ally, the PPP, was nothing short of a ‘coming of age’ for the party leadership.

However, other than this, unfortunately, the PML-N has seemingly done little to capture support nationally. In the past three odd years in opposition, the PML-N has been unable to make the government undertake reforms or even seriously consider its proposals.

In fact, the party’s meek responses to, amongst other things, the NRO fiasco, corruption scandals, promotion of nepotism, and the unjust distribution of gas and power throughout the country at Punjab’s expense, shall serve to establish it as a weak, if not outright impotent, political power.

In addition to this, and despite tall claims to the contrary, it is also a stark reality that the PML-N of today remains limited to Punjab in general, and Central Punjab in particular. Although the PML-N has historically had a rising vote bank in Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, the party leadership seems totally clueless as to how to capitalise on the perks of its relatively principled politics. Surprisingly, the top leadership seems unwilling or, at the very least, reluctant to visit places outside Central Punjab, and in fact, no efforts are seemingly being made to effectively reorganise the party in the provinces or in Fata.

It is because of this and the lack of promotion of individuals from other provinces in the Central Executive Committee, amongst other reasons, that the PML-N has been unable to shed its Punjabi persona. Furthermore, not only has the PML-N been unable to provide a platform to persons from other provinces to air their grievances, but the same has failed shamelessly in mobilising and promoting local leadership in different provinces so as to give the party a distinctively national flavour. In connection with the above, the PML-N has further failed to provide a national agenda and vision which takes into account the interests and sensitivities of all peoples and regions of the country, including but not limited to Central Punjab.

To our utter disappointment, the only national agenda being provided, ironically, consists of oddly assembled ambiguous and vague ideals which although undeniably desirable, are much like the principles of policy within the constitution of Pakistan: tentative guidelines which are frankly unenforceable.

Hence, in light of the above, it must be said that the upcoming elections shall prove to be extremely important for the future of the PML-N. Its opponents shall try their best to brand it as a regional party with a somewhat national flavour, whilst its detractors will try to bracket it as a defunct organisation with nothing to offer the people other than disappointment. However, at the end of the day, it won’t be the opinions of their detractors or the predictions of the opposition that will decide the fate of the second largest party in Pakistan, but rather its perceived commitment to national politics and the successful representation of the various stakeholders settled in this land of the pure.

The writer is a Karachi based lawyer and can be contacted at basil.nabi@gmail.com

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