VIEW: A pro-Taliban government in Punjab? —Naeem Tahir - Saturday, March 05, 2011

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The support to the PML-N is strongly committed from the violent minority. Funds, muscle and street power are all made available by exploiting the fair name of ‘Islam’. The future is incredibly depressing for those who believe in the vision of Allama Iqbal and the statesmanship of Quaid-e-Azam

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has been almost ‘kicked out’ from the Punjab government. The uncomfortable marriage between the PPP and the PML-N has come to an end with little grace. The end of the ‘coalition confusion’ will, hopefully, be good for the people. The game of good cop-bad cop is over and both can show their true character. But their true characters are also a matter of concern. The PPP has so far appeared very spineless, incompetent and ineffective. The PML-N has shown a pro-Taliban mindset and support for pro-Taliban activists. The PML-N is known to have provided over 50 million worth of financial assistance to Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a banned network, in its provincial budget. Senior leaders of the PML-N are seen campaigning with extreme rightists and aggravating interfaith discord. The PML-N stands with them while inflammatory and hate speeches are delivered and ensures that the extremist, pro-Taliban vote bank continues supporting them. The PML-N leadership has shown little sensitivity to the damage they are doing to the social fabric by standing with the extremists. The PML-N has made no effort for inter-cultural harmony. It relies on ‘Punjab support’, and plays that ‘card’. It has also diverted attention from its own corruption and incompetence.

The change has come according to the PML-N game plan. The much denied document of ‘pardon’ for Nawaz Sharif and others did actually exist and the Mian sahibs informed the Saudi authorities that they have completed the period of abstinence as per the contract and now they are entering the regular political scene. In the meantime, a flirting game to keep the political image was played and the contract was also violated by Chotey (little) Mian sahib, Mr Shahbaz Sharif. Many somersaults were made; first the PML-N joined the federal government and put up an erratic behaviour. Then they realised that being in the government will gradually erase their identity and the opposition will gain as usual. So they decided to move from the treasury benches to the opposition benches. The PML-N adopted the strategy to throw the bait of sharing the government in Punjab, which left the PPP neither here nor there.

The PML-N held 60 percent of Pakistan, but sat in the opposition in the National Assembly and thus enjoyed the position of being in power as well as in the opposition! Why the PPP liked this arrangement is hard to understand. Why did the PPP not take an opposition role in Punjab from the beginning? Also, why did Prime Minister Gilani keep showing up at Raiwind every week dutifully and almost as a subordinate of the Mian brothers? It must have further demoralised the PPP workers. If one goes back in the chain of events it is evident that most of the decisions made by the PPP were endorsed by the PML-N. Then the PML-N shared the deliberations in the Constitution Committee and got everything that was in its favour. So the PML-N marked time, kept its chief minister on the basis of a stay order of the courts, played with the simple PPP prime minister and prolonged its life. On the other hand, the PPP’s Mr Gilani thought he was playing safe and ensuring the PML-N support in case the divide in his own party and the coalition partners became worrisome. As these manoeuvrings were going on to make sure that the political situation maintains the status quo, actual governance was non-existent. The PPP obviously wants to stay in power for five years and reap a rich harvest, the PML-N wants to dig deeper and consolidate with rightists, extremists, and General Zia sympathisers and their mysterious financiers. ‘Financiers’ may not be much of a mystery for those who claim with confidence that substantial funding from al Qaeda was made available to Mian Nawaz Sharif. Also something to think about is that the murdered, Benazir, Taseer, Bhatti, all were enlightened leaders from the PPP. The next target is to involve Musharraf by hook or crook.

The support to the PML-N is strongly committed from the violent minority. Funds, muscle and street power are all made available by exploiting the fair name of ‘Islam’. The recent launching of the total control of Punjab by the PML-N appears to have been ‘celebrated’ through the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti by the Punjabi Taliban.

The future is incredibly depressing for those who believe in the vision of Allama Iqbal and the statesmanship of Quaid-e-Azam.

The important question here to consider is what role the PPP is going to play now. Is the leader of the opposition in Punjab happy with the perks and will stay quiet and let the PML-N continue and expedite the process of radicalisation in Punjab? Would the PPP really stand up and expose and struggle for a Punjab free from fear? Is the federal government of the PPP going to continue to live with the murder of its leaders in Islamabad or is it going to do something about it? Is the PPP left with any commitment, energy or will to stem the tide of radicalisation? At the present time not much can be expected from this party. It seems to be content with the status quo at the cost of the blood of its leaders and maybe does not plan to be an effective political force in future. Its inner conflicts and the disappointed coalition partners are ready to write the postscript to the PPP story. The Bhuttos have been used long enough, so now what?

The PML-N strategy would be to extract every ounce of advantage and seek fresh elections. Sounds simple but politics is not always so. The masses have seen the performance of these parties, they have also seen prices sky-rocketing, law and order shattered, supply shortages, and in-fights within the parties. Would the masses still vote for these feudal and power brokers? They may, under fear.

The writer is a culture and media management specialist, a researcher, author, director and actor

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