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May 13, 2021

Opposition and governance

 
May 13, 2021

To a very large extent, successful democracies depend on strong oppositions, capable of challenging the government and correcting its direction when this becomes necessary. We have a situation where the opposition alliance, the PDM, has virtually fallen into rivalry and hostility with each other, making it seem impossible that it can hold a united front. This is obviously not good either for the opposition or for politics in general in the country. The issue of resignations from the National Assembly initially split the PDM as did the question of a long march to Islamabad. Following this, we had the question of the Senate elections and the seat of Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House. Then we saw the PML-N accusing the PPP of engaging in vote rigging in the Karachi by-poll and other matters continue to come up day by day.

The return of Shahbaz Sharif to the scene and his role as head of the party within the alliance opens up some doors, which could lead to an accord of some kind being reached. The events of the past months and weeks however make this seem difficult. While Shahbaz is generally regarded as a man who prefers a less confrontational manner in taking up matters compared to Maryam Nawaz, who has created for herself a position as a leader for the PML-N, it is unclear how he will cope with a situation which is already extremely antagonistic. Both the PML-N and the PPP have been calling each other ‘selected’ parties. This naturally does not help build coordination or harmony within opposition ranks. It is obvious that the PPP has lost faith in the leadership of Maulana Fazlur Rahman of the JUI-F, who is seen as siding with the PML-N while pushing the PPP aside.

This situation means that without a strong opposition, governance of the country also runs into problems. Imran Khan has recently retracted from his severe open criticism of diplomats representing the country in missions abroad. In Punjab too there have been renewed problems concerned with the Covid crisis, and also other matters. It is clear we need better governance and an agreement to engage in dialogue. Only dialogue can lead to some accord on pressing matters, such as the use of electronic machines for the upcoming general election, on which the eyes of major parties will now be focused. Without discussion and negotiation, it would be very difficult to take matters to a new place or to move forward. At the moment, it is quite obvious that the PDM itself is no longer a united alliance and is too willing to cast arrows at each other. This is not a good sign and will hurt democracy in the country at large as well as make it impossible for the opposition, which is engaged in infighting, to keep an eye on the handling of government and the affairs of the nation.