Despite having survived another political storm, which nearly cost its premature demise, the three-year old government of Pakistan People`s Party ( PPP ) appears to have a death wish. Every few weeks, the ruling democratic dispensation shoots itself in the foot and creates tribulations, which have political pundits guessing dates for its collapse.
By Sultan M Hali
When the PPP assumed the mantle of power, after winning the elections, riding on a sympathy wave for its slain leader, it was cognizant of the fact that it did not have the numbers to form the government in Islamabad or any of the provinces single handedly, so it indulged in the politics of forming coalitions. They say politics makes strange bedfellows and Pakistan is no exception. In Sindh, the PPP teamed up with MQM, while in Punjab, it had to ride on the coattails of the Pakistan Muslim League (N), led by its indomitable leader Mian Nawaz Sharif. In the NWFP, which has since been renamed as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Awami National Party (ANP) of Asfandyar Wali held the sway, while in Balochistan it had to seek the support of Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), which also lent a helping hand in the coalition government when Gilgit Baltistan gained autonomous status. As often happens in such marriages of convenience, the coalition became tumultuous whenever clash of interests occurred. The first test came in the matter of the restoration of the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP). Despite his promise to accede to PML (N)’s recommendation, the PPP co-chairperson and President of Pakistan Mr. Asif Ali Zardari showed no signs of letting Chief Justice Iftikhar regain his status. Mian Nawaz Sharif decided to lead a “Long March” from Lahore to the Parliament Building in Islamabad, with the Black Coats in tow. The situation became grim at the possibility of a bloody altercation between the two erstwhile coalition partners that the Army Chief had to use coercive diplomacy to keep Mian Sahib at bay and Asif Ali Zardari to restore the CJP.
PPP’s ulterior motives became apparent when they tried to rock the boat in Punjab and dislodge the PML (N) through their handpicked Governor Salman Taseer. Unfortunately, the scheme backfired but the PML (N) became disgruntled. The deposition of the NRO cases by the judiciary, the annulment of the 17th amendment and the price hikes brought the PML (N) and PPP to cross swords again. The passage of the annulment of 17th amendment bill unanimously from the National Assembly did help matters, but the ruling party’s ulterior motives soon prevailed again. One clear example is the recent ‘coalition politics’ where the tussle between different coalition partners grew stronger and the subsequent political unrest in different provinces including Sindh, where target killings have become the order of the day. Dismissal of two ministers of the Hajj scam caused JUI (F) to part ways with the coalition, although the governments of Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan have not been disturbed. The land mafia’s advent and target killings in Karachi and the hike in petroleum products prices resulted in the MQM quitting the coalition at the center. It was now a matter of moments before the government at the center would topple. It swallowed a bitter pill and tried to entice PML (Q), but it refused to bite. PML (N), acted finally and presented a ten point agenda for the ruling junta to agree to within three days and implement within forty five days, if agreed upon, otherwise it would mobilize the masses into street agitation. Unfortunately, while the PML (N) Press Conference was in progress, PML (N)’s tormentor in Punjab, Governor Salman Taseer was shot dead by his own security guard for his views on the anti-blasphemy law. PPP announced three days mourning but the high level assassination signaled a divide in the country between religious extremists and moderates. PPP meanwhile managed to woo back its erstwhile coalition partner MQM by restoring the original prices of petroleum products. PML (N)’s agenda was also agreed to, bringing some cheer to the masses.
It remains to be seen whether the PPP is sincere in implementing the ten point agenda of PML (N) or has just made another promise to gain more time. However it appears that the PPP has a death wish. Within 48 hours of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani having acceded to PML (N)’s ten point agenda, the PPP fired the first broadside. Indirect contravention of one of PML (N)’s main points of weeding out corruption and sacking those responsible for it, PPP appointed Sardar Lateef Khosa as the new Governor of Punjab. Sardar Khosa’s name is not only tarnished with corruption, but he is also accused of having leveled charges against the CJP. His only qualification is that he is an ally of the Chaudhries of Gujrat and a thorn in the side of PML (N).
Meanwhile the US and IMF are upset by the reduction in petroleum products’ prices. The political upheaval and economic morass has caused the US President to rush his deputy, Joe Biden to Pakistan on an unannounced visit.
The current wave of making or breaking alliances appears to be nothing but a bid to build peace on the graves of butchered innocent souls with the ashes. People want change after having bitter experience both at the democratic and military alternating rules. The rampant corruption, high inflation, price hike, injustice and lawlessness are hurting every individual. The suicide bombings and fear of insecurity is adding fuel to fire. If the politicians really want to serve the country, they will have to sink their difference and stop playing the politics of coalition and instead of lining their own nests, do something to uplift the condition of the masses or face a people’s revolution. The US too appears to be having second thought regarding the horse it bet upon and Joe Biden was here to feel the pulse of the people and devise corrective actions or perhaps change horses midstream to retrieve a hopeless situation, fulfilling PPP’s death wish.