Pakistan’s political damsels - Ishtiaq Ali Mehkri (Debate) - 24 April 2011

Political parties in Pakistan are gearing up for electioneering. Well-abreast of their dismal performance and failure to live up to their respective electoral manifesto, almost all of them are trying to indulge in somersaults at the fag end of their current parliamentary tenures.

Ironically enough, new alliances are being talked about that doesn’t seem to enjoy even an iota of body chemistry and are poles apart in ideologue. The ruling Pakistan People’s Party’s fantasy and its audacity to woo the Muslim League-Quaid to join the treasury benches is a case in point. Not only have they been at each other’s throats but have nursed deep-rooted political differences that, in fact, have served as their identity tags in politics. Moreover, the fact that the PPP under President Asif Ali Zardari, which had called the Quaid-League as the ‘Killer League’ for their alleged involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, is now seen appeasing the latter. This development is not only earth-shaking but also depicts the waywardness, expediency and opportunism that are eating into the vitals of Bhutto’s party.
What is so compelling that is driving the PPP crazy to take its electorate for a ride? Its simply majority on the floor of the house is smooth enough to let it cross the bridge till new elections — even as a minority government. Moreover, the crisscross with which it has kept its allies and adversaries engaged is manifest of its power politics, and doesn’t seem to pose any threat whatsoever. In the same vein, it has risked confronting the Supreme Court tooth and nail, and has thrown to the wind all of its directives and decisions, apparently in a twin-edged attempt to prolong its rule and subsequently draw a martyr complexion if it gets booted out on contempt provisions. This is high state of brinkmanship that has severely impacted the party’s image as a pro-constitutional and manifesto conscious entity. At least, deceased Benazir Bhutto would not have treaded such a path. There is nothing wrong in making adversaries as allies, but doing that merely for self-centric purposes is unwarranted.
Though the PML-Q is yet to respond to the PPP’s largesse, it goes without saying that it will have serious ramifications on the political canvas of the country. The move apparently is intended at consolidating Punjab on the eve of next elections, as the PPP fears it remains firmly gripped with the Nawaz League. The Machiavellian concept of enemy of my enemy is friend, is simply being put to exercise as the legendary Bhutto’s party mends fences with the Chaudhries’ of Gujarat — on whose flimsy FIR had Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto walked to the gallows. Irresistibly, it is the Nawaz phenomenon that is bringing them together, which the PPP miserably seems to fight on since the exit of its strong man in Punjab, the deceased governor Salman Taseer. Notwithstanding, a host of politico-ideological issues that wedge them apart, both will be at pains in addressing the iconic shadow of former President Pervez Musharraf. Whatever power and influence the Quaid League enjoys today is resultantly an outcome of its association with the military dictator — an aspect that the PPP can’t stand to ignore while embracing and garlanding it as an ally.
While drawing battle lines for the forthcoming electoral contest, the PPP has already thrown the wrench. Its passion to see late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s name cleared by the judiciary, for which it has filed a reference, is politically being seen as opening a Pandora’s box. The very same Quaid-League hawks — with which the PPP is in love — have not only opposed the move tooth and nail but have vowed to bring Bhutto’s person and party to book for allegedly dismembering Pakistan. So much so for the politics of reconciliation! As the PPP inches towards elections, it would be better advised to prosecute the culprits involved in Benazir Bhutto murder, and at least make their names public —if it ever is in knowledge of. Playing to the gallery by shifting goalposts from Taleban to an international conspiracy and then back to Musharraf and the intelligence sleuths will not help. A deep and sincere introspection is what that is needed to unmask Benazir’s assassins — and a purge of the party is, thus, indispensable. The ruling party’s irresistible strength will come from honouring its manifesto and bowing its head before the court in implementing anti-corruption decisions and rescuing the economy from the woods. Hinging with the Quaid-League or the MQM purely for reasons of ballot count will be shortsighted. Let the PPP and the Q-League stand tall and get counted, independently. Marriages of convenience don’t last for long.

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