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June 20, 2021

Politics and the opposition

 
June 20, 2021

The political situation in the country has evolved fairly rapidly. During the Senate election for the chairman of the Upper House some months ago, the opposition parties had appeared to combine effectively and reports from Islamabad suggested that the government was somewhat shaken by the nomination of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for the post and the unity demonstrated between the PPP and the PML-N for that. Prior to this, the multi-party alliance under the banner of the PDM had presented its own threat. But that broke up fairly quickly. The unity in the Senate among the opposition parties collapsed, as the PPP and PML-N took their separate directions following Gilani's successful election as leader of the opposition in the Senate, while the PDM too showed its own differences. The question is where politics now stands in the country. The simple answer may be that it stands in chaos. The scenes we have seen in the National Assembly, with abusive language and budget papers being hurled across the floor of the House, and the latest exchanges between Bilawal Bhutto and Hammad Azhar as well as jibes directed towards each other do not show our political scenario in a very positive light. But whatever is happening in the National Assembly was terrifyingly enough still better than the chaotic scenes in Balochistan where the opposition, after protesting the government's failure to take up their proposals in the provincial budget, locked the gates to the assembly and the police tried to ram through the gates, causing some injury in the scenes that at times resembled outright warfare. Surely, no democratic country can run in any orderly fashion in such a situation where there is a complete breakdown of order and a complete unwillingness among the government and the opposition to take a step towards reaching out to each other. Mutual respect should be a part of democracy, no matter what differences exist on policies or other factors. It is also true that the economy and the political scenario both need to run strongly and smoothly together for successful governance to take place. This is clearly not happening at the moment. And the inflation, the increase in the prices of many commodities and other factors have left the PTI in a somewhat weak position. However, the breakup of the opposition means that the ruling party is now once again much stronger, more powerful and has gained in confidence and in the ability to stand together and move forward to the next stage in the political process. This next stage will naturally culminate in elections within the next two years. If the PTI is able to bring down prices, there is a chance it can do well at the polls. Many people still believe the party has some ability to bring the country out of crisis. On the other hand, the PML-N in recent by-polls has also shown that it holds its traditional strength in its traditional areas. Are we essentially now once again back to a two-party system, featuring the PTI and the PML-N, or is the PPP a dark horse waiting for the right time? There is also the matter of the upcoming AJK polls, which the PPP alleges are being manipulated by the ruling party. However, all this and more is forgotten amid the level of acrimony between the parties. At the end, democracy demands the victor be declared by a show of hands or votes and not by blows or abuse between rival parties.