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Anything is possible


March 18, 2018

We often hear people say that anything is possible in the land of the pure. People have seen so many strange and bizarre things happen on the political landscape of this country during the last 70 years that the saying has become almost visceral to pronounce whenever an event contrary to the country’s ground realities happens.

The victory of the combined opposition’s candidates in the elections for the slots of Senate chairman and deputy chairman is one such event that occurred against the ground realities. Considering the positions of the parties in the provincial assemblies and the federal legislature in the run-up to the Senate elections, the PML-N should have been the clear winner. But many analysts were aware that for quite some time now the opposition parties were feverishly engaged in stopping that from happening, by either getting the Senate elections delayed or somehow destabilising the PML-N government at the centre. People saw the coming together of avowed foes (PPP and PTI) at the platform provided by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek in Lahore. But the poor response by the masses was discouraging and so it seems another way was found.

The failure to mobilise people in the PAT-PTI-PPP rally in Lahore seems to have marked the beginning of the behind-the-scene manoeuvres to achieve the desired objective. The process began with the fall of the PML-N government in Balochistan and the election of independent senators from the province, which is now widely believed to have been orchestrated through horse-trading. The PPP has been blamed for this, since it is hard to believe seriously that the legislators of the province revolted against the PML-N government on ideological grounds or for the love of the PPP.

What happened during the Senate elections in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab was admittedly a sequel to what has been seen as the worst ever case of horse-trading, and again it is the PPP that has been held responsible. Imran Khan and other politicians raised a lot of hue and cry about the alleged horse-trading in the KP and Sindh assemblies. The former even hinted at taking action against the PTI MPAs who had apparently sold their loyalties. Imran has been a staunch detractor of the PPP, particularly its co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, whom he has claimed is a most corrupt politician. Even a few days before the elections for the Senate chairman and deputy chairman slots, the PTI chief had unequivocally stated that joining hands with the PPP would essentially mean contradicting 22 years of campaigning against corruption.

But then people saw Imran take a U-turn and announce that his party senators would vote for an independent candidate from Balochistan – essentially striking a back-stage alliance with the PPP. Although Imran Khan’s entire politics focused on seeing the Sharifs’ back, and he was prepared to go to any extent to achieve that, his shaking hands with Zardari was still unbelievable. It might even eventually damage his political standing.

Moreover, there are also reports of loyalties having been bought of senators from Fata. The victory of the opposition candidates is evident but is an unenviable and doctored triumph. Wheeling and dealing and forming coalitions is an essential part of parliamentary democracy, provided it is done to ensure the continuity of the system and strengthen the edifice of democracy. While some people might take solace in the fact that the Senate elections happened in spite of the prevalent uncertainty, and that the elections were done in the prescribed manner, the fact remains that the dealings that marked the process were rather unsavoury. Those who are describing the election results as the strengthening of democracy are only trying to justify what is inherently anti-democracy. How can democracy be strengthened when politicians violate democratic norms?

Thist also proves beyond an iota of doubt that morality and conscience have no place in our national politics and our politicians consider politics as an industry – a tool to multiply their fortunes and gain access to the corridors of power, irrespective of the illegitimacy of the means. To expect them to act conscientiously means expecting the impossible.

The victory of the opposition may have momentarily jolted the ruling party, but it will not affect it much in the near future. The PML-N will still be the single largest party in the Senate and remain in a position to have legislation passed through the joint sitting of parliament, notwithstanding the opposition’s attempts to block them. The general elections are not far away, and though the Senate elections machinations point towards what to expect of the opposition, it will still not be able to e challenge the PML-N, at least in Punjab, unless something unusual happens.

The PPP under Zardari has no chance of staging a comeback in Punjab. Some analysts believe that Zardari’s leadership is the worst thing to have happened to the party. Bilawal too has failed to make an impact on the political landscape. On the other hand, due to his politics of vendetta and conspiracies to topple the government, Imran Khan has also lost appeal among the people – as was evident from the PTI’s defeat in all the by-elections, even in Lodhran.

The fact is that the PML-N is still the largest and most popular party in the country. Even the SC’s verdicts against Nawaz Sharif did not create the impact many, particularly the opposition parties, expected they would. Preparing for the next elections, the PML-N can boast of reviving the economy, trying to end loadshedding and stopping terrorism in its tracks and restoring normalcy in Karachi. Against these facts, the opposition parties literally have no credible narrative to challenge the PML-N. These reflections are based on the existing realities. However, anything can happen in this land of the pure.

The writer is a freelance contributor.

Email: [email protected]

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