On a national government

September 12, 2021

As Shahbaz Sharif suggests the idea of a national government, a debate ensues

On a national   government

The idea of a national government floated by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Mian Shahbaz Sharif has initiated a political debate in the country. The Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly broached the subject idea during his visit to Karachi a few days ago. While talking to the media, however, he did not fully articulate his reasons. He looked convinced nonetheless that a national government was the only solution to the current national crises ranging from foreign policy to economy.

“I feel convinced that no party, acting alone, can fix the problems the country is facing these days. Collective wisdom is required to fix them. That is the reason why I think we should have a national government in place to handle these challenges”, stated Shahbaz Sharif.

In the British political system, a national government is formed during a time of war or other national crises.

“A national government is a government with members from more than one political party, especially one that is formed during a crisis. It is a coalition government, especially one during a war or a time of national crisis”, according to Collins Dictionary.

The difference between a “federal government” and a “national government” is that the federal government is a system that splits up powers among the local government; state or provincial government; and the central government. The local and provincial governments control some areas of economy and society and the federal government controls the rest.

However, a national government is the government or political authority, supported by the whole nation. The central government, in such circumstances, has full control. The national government then issues orders to the local and provincial governments.

The concept of a national government is almost three decades’ old in Pakistani politics. It was first proposed by Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan. However, the concept remained an abstraction and it will likely remain that way because of the dominant monolithic political culture, says Amjad Warraich, a political analyst.

“The Leader of the Opposition has ruled out the participation of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in the ‘national government’. He has himself thereby rejected the idea. A national government excluding the party with the highest number of seats in the parliament is a flawed concept. And he knows this,” Warraich tells TNS.

“It is an intra-party contradiction that reflects a serious tug of war going on amongst the high ranks of PML-N,” says Salman Abid, a political analyst. He believes that “Mian Shahbaz Sharif is trying to convince the ‘establishment’ again that he is willing to work with them”.

Marriyum Aurangzeb, the PML-N information secretary, has dubbed her party president’s statement “his personal opinion”.

“The [PML-N] president made a passing remark that if the people of Pakistan by the grace of God Almighty gave the PML-N the responsibility to govern again after the next elections, in his personal view he would not mind inviting other political parties, excluding the PTI, to contribute towards solving the massive crisis created by the Imran Khan government over their disastrous tenure,” says Aurangzeb.

The explanation offered by Aurangzeb has been described by some analysts as “a snub and an embarrassment” for Sharif.

“This is a reflection of an intra-party tug-of-war in the PML-N,” says Salman Abid, a political analyst. He believes that “Mian Shahbaz Sharif is trying to convince the ‘establishment’ again that he is willing to work with them. Otherwise, he should have clearly stated when he wanted this national government to come about.”

Even if a national government after the 2023 general elections is proposed, says Abid, it’s a defective concept and sounds undemocratic.

Amjad Warraich is not convinced about the perception of an internal tug of war.

“This is an eyewash for the public and the establishment. Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif are playing “good cop-bad cop”. Shahbaz’s track record suggests that he never says anything significant without consulting his brother,” he adds.

Shahbaz Sharif is convinced that Pakistan is facing serious challenges to its national security, economy, social fabric, foreign policy and other areas, therefore, years and consistent efforts are required to fix these.

Nevertheless, government officials including the Prime Minister Imran Khan have stated on several occasions that the country is on the right track of economic progress and there are no serious security challenges to the state.

Tahir Malik, a political analyst, says that the kind of political maturity required to form and sustain a national is “alien to Pakistani politics”. The government and the opposition, he says, are behaving like immature entities incapable of foreseeing real challenges in real time.

“The opposition is always regarded as the ‘government in the waiting’ in the Western concept of democracy. The government and the opposition work together to take the country out of crises if there are any. However, political opponents are seen as the worst enemy in our political culture. They are to be destroyed, not trusted,” he concludes.

The author is a staff member. He can be reached at warraichshehryar@gmail.com

On a national government