Parliamentary politics or agitational politics, politics inside the Parliament or in the streets, politics of confrontation or politics of getting along for the sake of continuity, politics of survival or politics of kamikaze, is the horn of dilemma the major two political forces have been confronted with after the elections 2018. The PPP has already decided to be the part of the new parliament while echoing its reservations on the fairness of elections. The PML-N is likely to decide to remain part of the parliamentary politics but at the same time may resolve to fully participate in the street agitations as decided by the (MPC) recently in Islamabad demanding re-elections in the country. PML-N’s two pronged strategy may be based on the dynamics to remain relevant to the parliamentary politics and also loyal to its former political allies those are movers and shakers of the agitational politics.
Pakistan People’s Party’s rejection of elections results is juxtaposed with the demand of resignation of the Chief Election Commissioner for his abject failure to hold fair, free and impartial elections in the country. Chairman Bilawal Bhutto asserted this while addressing a press conference in Karachi last Friday declaring to take up the matter with full force at the parliamentary forum. It explicitly implies that the PPP has decided to be vibrant part of the new parliament and therefore its members elect will take oath contrary to the decision of the MMA and other nationalist parties those have made up their mind not to take oath in protest against the rigging of the elections in the pre-elections period, in general, and on the elections day in particular.
It is significant to point out that PPP is not inclined to agitate the issue in the streets keeping in view the prime consideration of pre-empting the dangers to the continuity of democracy fearing that may fall victim to the prolonged protests. It has been top priority of the party politics and its track record bears witness to it without an iota of doubt. It may be recalled, last time in 2013 the PPP though had the reservations on the 2013 elections like “ROs Elections” but successfully opposed the sit-in politics launched by PTI to pull down the then elected government through unconstitutional means. The PPP, no matter what, could not afford to put the democracy in dire dangers then and will not put the political system in the peril now because democracy and its continuity are the non-negotiable narratives for the party no matter whatever the price. Its decision matches with its unwavering commitment to democracy that is indeed the cherished legacy of its founding father Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto who sacrificed their lives to nurture democracy with their blood. For that reason, the PPP cannot even imagine to betray the cause of democracy and its continuity.
The PML-N may also be in favour of becoming the part of the new parliament but probably decline the MPC to boycott the parliament. The PML-N leader, Shahbaz Sharif, co-host of MPC, while talking to the media after the meeting last week said that he would give response of Party on the decisions of the MPC meeting in a day or two after consultations with the Party high command. It seems certain that PML-N may not totally agree with the MPC decisions. Hamza Shahbaz Sharif highlighted the point last week that PML-N would play the role of an effective Party in the parliament while at the same time urged the PTI chief to respect his Party’s mandate in the province of Punjab as the biggest party. It looks that the PML-N strategy is to force the PTI to lay off its hands on Punjab as a quid pro quo of not becoming the part of the street politics. The chances of PML-N joining the hardline religious parties and of nationalist parties are greater if PTI is not impressed by the bait -- the tacit and conditional support of PML-N.
To the disenchantment of the PML-N, the game plan seems to be failing because PTI has reportedly well on the course to mobilise enough support of the elect independent members of the provincial assembly to match the magic number. The PML-N also claims the support of the majority of the independent members but its body language does not synchronize with the claim. The forecast of the political weather of the country may not bode well for the political system and indeed for the country. It is the dire need of the hour that the political leadership of all hues may think of doing national politics instead of megalomaniac parochial politics. If Pakistan suffers all will be in the dock of history indiscriminately.
The PML-N leadership perhaps has the feelings that the success of the street politics to force the new elections may make them comparatively politically redundant and isolated as the religious parties, with all probability, may steal the entire political show because of their formidable street power the PML-N is devoid of. It is sensible and smart thinking on the part of PML-N leadership because at present it is going to be the second largest political force in the new parliament with prospects of reclaiming its lost political grounds. It may be relevant to mention that PML-N also lost vote bank due to the fielding of candidates by the hardliner of religious political parties. The active support to that lobby by PML-N may mean as creating their own adversaries and competitors.
The Awami National Party is equally frustrated over the elections results and has announced to observe strike on July 30th (Monday) throughout the KPK against Election Commission of Pakistan for not holding fair, free and transparent elections in the country. The Party leader, Asfandyar Wali, leveled allegations against the some elements like the Balochistan Nationalist Parties asserting that they used all their leverages to ensure the victory of PTI in the provinces of KPK and in Balochistan. Other political parties are also reading from the same hymn sheet of not providing them the level playing field to contest the elections. The RO’s role has also been bone of contention. They allegedly did not provide the form 45 to the agents of candidates, or in many cases the poling agents who were expelled from the counting rooms presumably to tamper with the election results. Such complaints poured in large number but apathy of ECP was unforgiving.
The international observers in their preliminary reports have raised the questions about the denial of level playing field to the political parties by the Election Commission that did not take requisite steps to rectify the situation. The media censorship was also abounding that reflected poorly on the fairness of the elections. The state institutions covert and overt alleged interference and the judicial activism also generated the impression of denial of level playing field to the number of political parties those could not launch effective election campaign as their top leaders were put in jail just before the elections.
The international observers were generally upbeat so far as the polling day was concerned that did not fall short of the accepted standards of polling from the transparency and the efficiency view point. Notwithstanding, the digital system’s failure to transmit the elections results caused anxiety and furor that was predictable. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), a well reputed organisation, also described the polling day as the “poor show” of Election Commission of Pakistan.
The “victory speech” of Chairman Imran Khan though promised to forget all the bad taste tone and tenor of pre-elections along with seemingly well-meaning assurance of not resorting to political victimisation of any sort. His speech, however, did not overly demonstrated genuine desire to seek the cooperation of the opposition parties implying he wanted to go-it-alone. It is not only impossible but also against the spirit of parliamentary democracy. The undiluted desire to take along the opposition on important national issues are glaringly missing from his speech that may be bad omen for the political system and indeed to the Party in the final analysis. It is hoped that the political exigencies may compel the PTI top leadership to listen to the imperatives of functioning democracy and reach out to the other political leadership with explicit desire to seek their cooperation in the largest interest of democracy and the country. To jettison ego-centric inclination is very small price to pay when vital interests of the country are at stake.
The US State Department, as predicted, in its statement on Pakistan elections has expressed US desire to work with the new leadership to improve relations between the two countries for security and stability imperatives. The statement also contains reservations about the fairness and impartiality of the elections those were mired by various allegations like denial of the level playing field, media censorship including the arrests of political workers. The statement appreciated the voters for rejecting the candidates from the extremist religious parties.
The verdict of the voters is far more superior to those policy planners who still consider them an asset. People’s reject verdict listed them in the category of liability. When our policy planners and their patrons will understand this question of ordinary prudence? Let us hope they come out of their make believe world for fresh air.