close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

January 6, 2021

Resignations and apprehensions

Opinion

January 6, 2021

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Many in the opposition camp may have been quite taken aback by the PPP's decision to contest the up-coming Senate elections. Some have accused the party of stabbing the PDM in the back. The decision has also created an impression that the opposition parties stand fragmented. But before unleashing a torrent of criticism against the PPP, one needs to ponder over the ramifications that mass resignations could entail.

The PTI and its sympathisers in the media are euphoric over what they call the demise of the PDM, claiming that the N League and JUI-F are trying to prevent the PPP from emerging as the second largest party in the Upper House. They assert that boycotting the Senate polls does not suit Zardari because this could jeopardise the PPP government in Sindh. Government spokespersons have been coming down hard on the N League but in recent weeks they have appeared to be somewhat soft on the PPP. It seems that Maulana Fazlur Rehman is also furious over the PPP decision.

The PPP has its own logic of making such a move. It believes that conspiracies are being hatched to undo the 18th Amendment of the constitution and strike down the NFC. It fears that boycotting the Senate polls would amount to ensuring a majority for the PTI in the Senate which could carry out legislation that might go a long way in dealing a devastating blow to the federation. Powerful circles have already expressed their contempt for the 18th Amendment that supporters of greater autonomy assert has strengthened the federation. The late Baloch leader Hasil Bizenjo would often claim that if such an amendment had been passed in the 1960s, Pakistan would have never dismembered.

The PPP also fears that the PTI-led government could even go to the extent of granting constitutional role to non-democratic forces. Such an act would paralyse the entire democratic system and the country would return to the controlled democracy that it witnessed from 1988 to 1998.

Bhutto's party unleashed a long struggle for the restoration of democracy in the aftermath of the military coup of 1977. Its workers faced the worst form of oppression, thousands of them confined behind bars and brutally tortured. The PPP was not alone in facing the wrath of Gen Zia whose monstrous policies were also targeting journalists, intellectuals, lawyers, women rights activists, poets, writers and left-wing cadres. They all dreamt of a federation where the rights of federating units are recognized and respected.

The 18th Amendment translated that dream into a reality. The provinces immensely benefited from this radical change in the constitution. Though districts have complaints against this landmark piece of legislation, one hopes such apprehensions would be allayed by political parties with time.

Benazir Bhutto once admitted that her party had committed a blunder by turning a blind eye to non-party elections during Zia's time. She was of the opinion that such a boycott provided an opportunity to non-democratic people to make it to parliament. The space created by the PPP was eagerly filled by political novices who promoted cronyism and corruption. With time, the new faces emerged so strong that even the PPP and later N League were left with no option but to accommodate the entrants who knew nothing about political ideologies but everything about opportunism and money-making. The same people corrupted the system, bringing disrepute to politics and politicians. Even today they seem to be powerful in various parts of the country and no government can dare ignore them.

So, bashing the PPP would not benefit anyone, and those in the N League who are opposing the boycott must be given a patient hearing. It is quite common to miscalculate political matters. For instance, when the JUI-F launched the long march last year, it was brimming with confidence, which evaporated when the PML-N and the PPP offered them a lacklustre response in Islamabad. Maulana, who is known for his political sagacity, was stunned to notice that he did not have enough means to prolong his sit-in. His party faced a big embarrassment when it had to roll back the protest after some vague assurances from politicians who are considered close to those that wield power.

The N League also needs to realize that it is not a workers-based party with a proper organizational structure. It neither has a militant cadre like the JUI-F nor are its workers deeply ideologically committed individuals. They tend to attend its political gatherings and throng to polling stations to vote for the party but when it comes to facing state repression and police crackdown their performance has not been very impressive. And what we need to remember is that the PML-N's workers never faced the ire of state the way the PPP did during General Zia's time. Even the JUI-F seems to be realizing that it cannot take much pressure. After all, there are some donors of the party who may be involved in businesses and would not want to infuriate the state to invite an all-out crackdown that would not only damage their commercial activities but dent the party as well.

The PDM should remember that policies do boomerang on creators. If the boycott leads to a PTI majority in the Senate and if the anti-autonomy political organization deals a devastating blow to pro-province legislation, it will greatly damage the credibility of the political alliance. Therefore, it should let sanity prevail, and prepare for the Senate polls, making sure that the Imran Khan government does not get a walkover. The elections would also prove whether members of the PPP, PML-N and JUI-F are steadfast or not.

The biggest test of the PDM is how not to boycott the Senate elections but still ensure that their legislators are not bought off. If the opposition parties manage to foil any possible attempt of horse trading or vote buying, it will be a big success for all of the opposition. There is no harm in holding the long march after the Senate polls.

Political events can be scheduled or rescheduled. It should not be turned into a bone of contention. Given this march is not being backed by powerful circles, it seems to have slim chances of success. Therefore, if the march does not manage to extract any good results, it should at least not end up wreaking havoc with the current constitutional amendments that were carried out after the struggle of several decades. Such an end would amount to digging one’s own grave. If the opposition parties lose what they have managed to achieve in over 30 years, they would never be able to muster enough support to carry out such remarkable legislation again.

Therefore, the PDM should give serious consideration to the PPP's stance over the resignation issue. It should also engage others who may not be comfortable with the idea of en-masse resignations and should hold deliberations and consultations to plan future strategies. If the movement does not achieve its target of dislodging the government, it should not at least be seen as a factor that led to the demise of radical constitutional changes.

Email: [email protected]