In a democracy, opposition is an essential part of democratic dispensation because it presents an alternative option to people in case incumbent government fails to respond to their aspirations. It acts like a watchdog. It questions the government not to transgress the law and hoodwink public will. In real sense, it is no easy task rather, a difficult, painstaking and elaborate job. It calls for commitment to democratic ideals and yearnings of people, vigilance, competence, hard work and an acute sense of sacrifice and struggle even with no immediate gain in sight. These are more significant traits than its numerical strength in Parliament. It is the gauge to determine robustness and vitality of an opposition.
In wake of elections 2018, emerging opposition was being termed formidable on basis of their numerical strength in both houses of Parliament/Punjab Assembly in addition to political naivety of PTI and erstwhile uncanny ability of ruling elite to pull strings. With electoral stroke of Imran Khan, major part of ruling elite is now in opposition. At cracking speed, they gathered to bewilder Imran khan, his party and newly acquired allies by their opening gambit; vow not to take oath in Assemblies and not to let them function even by force. It was a thunder move but begun to lose steam at equal speed with which it was thrown. With election of PM, cacophony of combined opposition has stood greatly exposed to an extent of anticlimax. It elicits many questions. What was the prime reason behind this tranquilizing drop scene? Was antipathy of PPP towards Shabazz Sharif the reason because of his bizarre utterances about its top leadership? Was fear of gaining more by PML (N) politically at expense of PPP?
Both have some substance but contains nothing of material significance. The cynical self-preservation of both, appears to be immediate and foremost cause behind ominous cracks, cropped in alliance. Reportedly, both Shabazz Sharif and Asif Zardari are desperately seeking reconciliation by making various moves or gestures; a NRO in face of fast closing noose of accountability towards them. The languishing Nawaz Sharif in Adiala jail is another urgent call to attend. He may also be pressing hard to mend the fences with concerned quarters to obtain relief. It is by no mean a wild fantasy. His past record stands testimony to such speculation. The aversion to confrontation by Shabazz Sharif and no vote to his candidature as PM in Parliament by PPP, could easily be construed by critics, solo attempts directed to woo or attract attention of those who could get them soft pitch. At present, to them, self-preservation takes primacy over their collective political preservation. In midst of fear, no alliance could fare better rather its collapse stands foreordained. With Zardari action, election of PM for Imran Khan was virtually a no contest walk over but failed to fetch concession of any kind in realm of accountability for him. It only left opposition alliance more in lurch. The message of Imran Khan is too categorical “no reconciliation with anyone who plundered future of the nation” The efforts are again afoot to repair the damage however, its reoccurrence remains on cards because of heavy stakes at stake.
Besides, there are also other reasons which could inhibit ruling elite to act as an effective opposition. Their chemistry is not of any political creed. They have sordid past. They have invariably rushed to join charlatans, political designers or schemers of any variety to share the spoils. In last decade, both PPP and PML (N) came to power, riding on buggy of Charter of Democracy, signed under aegis of US. It renders them incapable to wage a struggle over a long haul psychologically, intellectually and physically. It is not numerical strength rather, something inside which spurs one to do real opposition. Of late, there was no dearth of rumors/speculations that they were even ready for a technocrat government, national government or arrangement of such sort which could have kept forces of change at bay. NRO is their fond staple whose provision is improbable in present setting. On good reasons, hands of all are cuffed on this score.
With taking cues from available pointers, it is hard to disbelieve that curtains would not be down soon on top leadership of both major parties on account of accountability. It is just a matter of time. It would leave opposition further in doldrums which is not a good omen for long term. The Bilawal has yet to go a long way to mature into a solid lad because hundreds in town and helmets could match his oratory out of a written script by others. His general conversation does not reflect similar content of high caliber and maturity. He exposed himself when he called Imran Khan a PM select, on outside instigation too or otherwise. In short term, it may afford ample time to Imran Khan to implement his agenda of change unhindered. It would also deprive him of an excuse that he was handicapped by opposition for not performing as pledged to the nation. As for as, legislation is concerned, at first place, it is not direly needed. Secondly, an atrophied opposition could only block good legislation on its own pearl. Over a period of time, vacuum created by absence of their top leadership, would be filled as nature abhors vacuum.
— The writer, retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.