Shifting political landscape

News reports suggest that the PPP has invited the PML-Q to join the federal government. On the other hand, President Zardari went to Karachi to cool down the frayed tempers of the MQM, which had decided to quit the Sindh government and has not returned to the cabinet at the Centre following differences with the PPP. These are all indications of a shifting political landscape, where the PPP is increasingly finding its position jeopardised. It has been ousted from the Punjab coalition government, while the departure of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F) from the federal government has left the PPP fragile and weak. PML-N and Nawaz Sharif are girding their loins to take on a weakened PPP. Additionally, the government is facing pressure from the Supreme Court to implement its decisions on the National Reconciliation Ordinance and removal of the National Accountability Bureau chief, which might actually translate into exposing President Zardari and his cohorts to a selective process of accountability.

In this situation, it is not surprising that the PPP wants to bring the PML-Q into its fold, the only party left with some strength in parliament to bail it out, despite major ideological differences. Earlier, the PML-Q winced at such a possibility because after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, her husband and now president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, had squarely laid the blame on PML-Q, by calling it Qatil (murderer) League. However, after the Unification Bloc ditched it in Punjab and announced joining the PML-N, the former king’s party has been sobered and might consider ending its isolation by joining the federal government.After remaining out in the cold for the entire period of General Musharraf’s dictatorship, the major political parties had vowed to adopt a national rather than partisan outlook, as reflected in the now dead in the water Charter of Democracy, and not undermine one another to the benefit of extra-constitutional forces. Since the PPP returned to power after the 2008 general elections, it has been following the policy of national reconciliation and was supported by the opposition PML-N in all its major decisions.

Now, from the various fractions, attitudes and actions of the political class, a disjuncture and shift is visible. It seems everyone is back to looking to their narrow interests. It was inevitable that this process would set in sooner or later.Such shifts in the political landscape indicate that a change is coming. It is difficult to predict whether that change will be within the current parliament or in the shape of a fresh election. Given Pakistan’s sorry history, for a democratic government to have completed three years without interruption is no mean achievement. While it is perfectly within the realm of democratic politics to hold mid-term elections to seek a fresh mandate if an elected government fails to deliver and fulfil the mandate it has been given by the people, if anyone is harbouring an anti-democratic agenda involving extra-constitutional forces, that must be resisted by all political forces in a united effort. From among all the options currently available to Pakistan, democracy, with all its warts and flaws, is the best option. Pakistan cannot afford another military intervention in the name of implementation of court decisions or cleaning politics of corruption. It will undermine the collective interest of all the democratic forces – Dailytimes