Interesting times, ahead

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M Ziauddin

The PML-N is on a roll since the disqualification of its chief, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Every attempt—judicious, administrative and political—to keep it from returning to power after the 2018 general election seems so far to have failed.
Its success in grabbing the largest number of seats in the just concluded Senate elections despite all odds opens the door for the PMLN to bid for the majority in the Upper House.
And if it continues the way it has been doing politics since July 29, 2017, nullifying all attempts by its detractors to stop it in its tracks the Party appears all set to come back to the National Assembly with perhaps even more seats after the next election than the number it had won in the 2013.
Some believe, even a guilty verdict by the NAB now trying the Nawaz family in a number of corruption references would only enhance the Party’s chances to romp home with an increased majority in the next NA.
And if what seems to be happening actually happens, —an unthinkable development at least a year back— it would be for the first time in our political history that a party led by a discredited leadership facing charges of corruption would return to power without having to wait in the shadows for at least one term, overcoming an all -powerful establishment.
This would either give rise to increased tensions between a civilian political hegemon in the making and the seemingly waning hegemon, the establishment or instigate a military or a judicious coup or even perhapssee acceptance of the inevitable by the establishment with each of its component—civilian officers, military bureaucracy and the judiciary— going back to their respective Constitutional domain and refusing for all times to come to cross the limits no matter what the provocation or temptation.
This situation has developed the way it has because the other mainstream political parties, the PPP and the PTI have failed to pose any meaningful challenge to the PMLN in the Punjab.
The PTI which had captured the fancy of a huge number of youth in Punjab in 2013 election wasted all these almost five years in trying to politically overpower the PMLN in its strong-hold, the central Punjab neglecting the urban Sindh almost completely where it had given the then politically all powerful MQM run for its money in the last election.
The disarray in the MQM since it lost its leader, Altaf Hussain had offered a God -sent opportunity to any political party on the scene to grab urban Sindh but instead of the PTI it was the PPP which cashed the opportunity because the PTI due to its own political follies was not in a position to do so.
Rural Sindh was ignored by the PTI as if the region was not worth even a try. Southern Punjab had become a football between Jahangir Tareen, Secretary General of the PTI and Shah Mehmood Qureishi, its Senior Vice President which has caused the region to be picked up like a ripe fruit by the PMLN.
The PTI’s biggest blunder was to promote Imran in the media rather than the reforms it had successfully implemented in KP and the relatively improved governance that one saw in this province compared to the other three.
Another blunder of sorts committed by the PTI was to pick up an unnecessary fight with the biggest media house of the country. Imran should have known that this media house was the biggest violator of media ethics in the country without being held accountable because of the political clout it has captured due to its monopolistic hold on the country’s media industry. Not even the establishment had succeeded in bringing this media house to the book when it had tried to scandalize a former ISI chief. So, this avoidable enmity of Imran with the media house in question has caused him and his politics irreparable damage.
The less said about the PPP the better. It has been completely ousted from the biggest province, the Punjab. No doubt the establishment had seen to it that PPP never got back its foot-hold in Punjab after having removed the government of Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto.
In 1988 the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan waited until Nawaz had formed the Punjab government before inviting Benazir Bhutto, the leader of the majority Party in the National Assembly to form the government at the center. The establishment had rightly feared that if the PPP formed the government at the centre before the IJI in Punjab, most of the independents which were in huge numbers in the province would go over to the PPP and Benazir would be able to form her own government in Punjab as well.
Next, when the PPP won the elections in 1993 in coalition with PMLN (C), despite the pre-election deal that the PPP would get the office of the Chief Minister and the coalition partner the senior cabinet post, the reverse happened perhaps under establishment’s pressure and Manzoor Wattoo of PML(C) became the CM of Punjab.
During the period he lasted in the office of CM Wattooused both his hands to destroy the PPPin his own personal interest and perhaps in the interest of the establishment as well at its bidding. But alas, this was the very man given the PPP’s provincial president’s office when the PPP won the 2008 general elections but failed recapture Punjab.
Moreover, the PPP’s new leadership in the person of Asif Ali Zardari promoted the most unpopular persons of Punjab and political nincompoops like Babar Awan and Rehman Malik during the period between 2008 and 2013 destroying all chances of the PPP getting its foot-hold back in the majority province.
Not only this, the performance of the PPP and its governance in Sindh have been so wanting all these ten years it has ruled the province at a stretch that it would be lucky to retain its majority in its political strong-hold come next election.
So, with the two mainstream political parties not in a position to be of any use in curbing the PMLN’s sky-rocketing popularity, the establishment tried to use a couple of obscure political parties hurriedly carved out of religious militant groupsbut to no avail. More so, because the international pressure on the powers- that- be to stop differentiating between good and bad Taliban too seems to have nullified even this gimmick as well.
So, interesting times are ahead.

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