Friday January 27, 2023

Is a mid-term poll the best bet for Nawaz?

April 13, 2016


DUBAI: The PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan’s disclosure that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was begging a meeting with Asif Ali Zardari in London and reports that Zardari was reluctant, come amid credible signs that the PM had been advised to step aside and preferably go for a mid-term election.

Nawaz Sharif may be seriously considering this advice coming from his own family and some influentials within his party who have links and contacts with other power centres. The proposal is accompanied with strong political logic. The decision by the PM to prolong his stay and deliberations with his family members in Raiwind and then proceed directly to London after holding an important meeting at the airport and handing over the PM House to Ishaq Dar indicates he was close to making up his mind but wanted to take Asif Zardari, the Saudi friends and possibly the Americans on board.

Unconfirmed reports had suggested that Hussain Nawaz, who was part of the family discussions in Jati Umra, had flown to London via Jeddah where he was to discuss the matter with the Saudi friends. Whether he did so is not yet known.

The logic behind the mid-term polls proposal has merit and appeals to Nawaz Sharif but may not be liked by Zardari as he is not in a position to go into a general election at this time. On the political horizon, the logic says, the PML-N is the only party, which has its party and election structures in place, which has Punjab and a local elected leadership thrown up in the recent polls.

Other parties, PPP, PTI and even MQM are in different stages of disarray. The PPP has a grim power struggle going on with Bilawal and those surrounding him trying to grab a modicum of power but Zardari, his sister and the circle of his friends and beneficiaries resisting.

The authorities are in hot pursuit of the Zardari group with many already nabbed and the first priority of the self-exiled PPP boss is to survive, get away with as little damage as possible and live to fight on another day. He would never agree to a mid-term poll unless Nawaz agrees to wind up the Sindh operation by Rangers and NAB. That may not be possible.

The PTI has been experimenting with internal polls and with sharp differences surfacing in its top leadership, the whole process has been shelved. Another election and Imran Khan’s political and management capacities would be seriously tested.

In Karachi, the MQM is passing through its own divisive phase and day after day the new Kamal party is challenging Altaf Hussain’s hold. In snap polls, the new party may not make a mark but Karachi would remain in turmoil.

For the PML-N, the solution being offered is that by stepping aside, Nawaz Sharif and family will somehow get through the Panama Leaks storm by going to the people for a verdict, divert all politics towards the new polls, take advantage of the disarray in the ranks of other parties, get another majority and extend the term of the new assembly for a fresh five years, till 2021.

Many analysts agree this is probably the best time for Nawaz to seek a new mandate as the days, weeks and months that come will make it difficult to hold on to power and more so to get back into the PM House.

The critical question, which has not yet been answered, is what will happen to the provincial governments and assemblies. Neither Punjab, nor Sindh nor KP would like the governments getting dissolved. But the key issue would be how credible the national election would be considered if held under the supervision of sitting political governments.

With the PML-N in a stronger position to contest a snap poll, the argument is that Nawaz would emerge as a democrat, his opponents would not get time to rally their forces and consolidate their ranks so quickly and if the Pandora’s Box of off shore accounts and properties is opened, it will engulf not just the PM but thousands of others and may not reach any logical end quickly.

A quick vote and a fresh mandate by the people would strengthen the prime minister’s position against any on-going probe into his personal and family assets and accounts. While this scenario looks quite attractive on the face of it, it has grave consequences shrouded in its wings.

Once Nawaz Sharif quits, who will defend and protect his wings, how will his own family react and what would happen to the ambitions of his brother, nephews and daughter. Will Ishaq Dar be able to manage everything when it is already known that at a time of crisis in the past he had confessed to many things that are now coming back to haunt the Sharif family. Nawaz himself may not come back as PM for the fourth time, but his party and even a family member, could still grab the position, protecting all the assets that are now being threatened.