No country for the naïve!

It is an open season on the government. The PML-N, despite being tossed around and for good reason, is far from being defeated. The latest is the opposition coming together for pressuring Shehbaz Sharif and Rana Sanaullah to resign and abdicate the Lahore throne. The PPP, the PTI and the PAT put up a fair demonstration of power in Lahore to kick-start the protests for avenging the Model Town killings, however, the show lacked the fanfare and potency expected of a joint effort of three mainstream parties.

The same political jostle by the three main parties also failed to make an impact because of the non-parliamentary language used by Sheikh Rashid who openly cursed the institution of parliament and announced his resignation. Imran in his trademark emotionalism endorsed his remarks and provided strong legal and moral high ground to the government to bring the coalition down spoiling an astute political move. Dr Qadri, who is generally cautious with his words, also went slightly overboard validating his prowess in numbers and almost qualified for inciting violence by provoking the crowd to avenge the Model Town deaths. In fact, only Zardari articulated his speech intelligently, striking Nawaz Sharif with shrewd political lethality and attacking the ousted PM’s loose talk by his personal comparison with Mujibur Rahman.

The net effect of the whole Mall Road affair therefore was multiplied by a fat zero. Yet the debate about parliamentarians not upholding the sanctity of parliament has paled the Model Town issue into relative insignificance. The ill-thought out statements have actually created a wedge between the parties, perched on one container for a mutual cause. The PML-N was, however, quick to cash in on the opportunity to scar the PTI brutally in parliament. Zardari too dissociated his party from the episode and Khursheed Shah condemned Imran Khan and Sheikh Rashid in parliament.

Imran in his doggedness not only accepted and endorsed his statements but also vowed to stick to his viewpoint. Truth be told, parliament indeed has lots of members with low moral credentials. That said, the loud-mouthed and ill-timed censure of the institution of parliament at such a time when the PML-N was viciously bruised and about to give way was a political fiasco of epic proportions. Unless the Qadri-Imran alliance can come up with a political contraption to turn around the current mess, the struggle is not likely to yield the desired results. If anything, the divide between the PPP and the PTI has actually emboldened the duo to stick to their power more resiliently. Sheikh Rashid, too, seems to have singlehandedly rowed them out of high waters and shipped them to the promised land.

Another issue left in limbo is of the mass resignations from the PTI that Imran hinted at during the Mall Road rally. By the time this writing goes to print there is a likelihood of some decision by the PTI leadership over the issue of resignations. With a few months to go before the scheduled elections, the efficacy of these resignations is questionable in any case. It might provide even more leverage to the PML-N in parliament in the absence of a credible opposition and allow them to smoothly complete their term. Unless followed by a comprehensive strategy to pressure the government, the resignations may provide respite to the rulers who are otherwise fighting a war for their survival.

The PML-N seems to have devised an offensive strategy to seek relief from their current predicaments, although many top leaders are opposed to overt confrontation, the strategy still has yielded some positive results for the party, in the form of the favourable outcome in Hudaibiya case from the Supreme Court. Imran Khan does not owe his political standing to either parentage or patronage, yet it is essential that he learns to be politically savvy and perceptive to cash in on the initial success. This is essential if an alternative is to be found for the putrefying mess that we find ourselves in.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2018.

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