THE trajectory of second wave of coronavirus is climbing up alarmingly yet it fails to moderate rising political temperature in the country. Instead of responding to call of a national emergency, government and PDM both have locked horns with each other and seem all set to go to the wire to achieve what is actually a raison d’être for them. It is a mutually exclusive sustenance which they need essentially to exist politically. In case of PDM, it is required even more imperatively to escape noose of accountability which could damage them mortally in more ways than one. PDM has set forth a multilateral strategy to achieve its goals, encompassing mass resignations from assemblies, long march to Islamabad and dialogue. Notwithstanding their rhetoric, opposition is far more desperate to find solace through any door and in any way on fancy names of dialogue for host of reasons. Mass resignations entails risk, authorized under Constitution as well as a sacrifice to which they have never accustomed to. A successful long march requires a mammoth, representative and determined crowd along with an acute sense of anxiety and antipathy against the government across the country. Such a crowd is beyond their means. They could only muster a hired and marooned crowd which understandably, remains void of spirit, resolve and determination, direly needed for a political protest. Public sentiments against government have not reached a high mark which could give fillip to call of a discredited lot to which they squarely belong to, owing to their loot and plunder. Virtually, at present, they are playing to empty gallery and it would be no less different in event of a long march. The hullabaloo is more of media stuff than a trouble for government. Probably, this is the reason that reportedly, Asif Zardari is trying to impress upon Nawaz Sharif to tone down his speech in order to signal positively for talks/reconciliation.
Similarly, Shabaz Sharif has also asked Maryam Nawaz not to escalate the situation lest path of return becomes extinct. Arguably, they are running from pillar to post to cut the deal. In fact, their effort never ceased regardless of what ostensibly they are talking about but ironically, this all is afoot behind scene. The talks being proposed, could take any form i.e. constitutional reforms, national dialogue and truth and reconciliation commission however, ultimate outcome needs to be amnesty for them. In return, they are ready to give government of Imran Khan full term without much of creating ruckus/hurdles. The constitutional reforms package may be designed to carve out a way out subtly to dodge the bullet of accountability. The model could be similar to what they did when they sat with government and proposed 34 amendments out of 38 clauses of NAB law to dull effectiveness of its accountability blade. A high sounding term “National Dialogue” is in circulation wherein, all stakeholders ought to participate and pledge to work within own constitutional domain for solution of national problems.
The indemnity for past lapses may be a necessary evil to accept by all for sake of strengthening/institutionalizing functioning of state’s organs to forestall possibility of its reoccurrence and move forward in spirit of mutual pursuits. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is also a fascinating idea for them to forget about past and move forward afresh for the sake of collective good. Though its terms of reference have not been talked about by them however, one could easily infer from their mindset/conduct that they want a forum where in exchange of masquerading their guilt/remorse, they could secure a blanket impunity against their past misdeeds of all kinds. This is their sly scheme in guise of common good however, is unlikely to make headway. It is a non-starter because it amounts to glorifying corruption and condoning abuse of power. It is tantamount to granting a fresh lease of life to status quo on whose hands country has suffered most grievously and is no more in a position to sustain another spell of their corruption and misrule. Precisely this is the reason that no informed section of the society is with them. This is no tall claim. An honest survey would simply attest this fact. Consequently. Opposition, desirous of NRO, is not finding favour in any sensible quarter, leave aside Imran Khan and establishment who are even more conscious of impending disaster if they manage to break in once more. For Imran Khan, accountability is also a lifeline. An NRO in any form would not only club him with corrupt ruling elite rather, would extinguish him politically because on their turf, he has no match with them.
It is therefore, for reconciliation on their terms and conditions, Imran Khan is out rightly a wrong number. Inevitably, PDM has to pursue other options. Most likely is continuation of political protest followed by agitation and long march. Albeit, it is unlikely to fetch them significant benefit tangibly however, may serve them intangibly by keeping the country in turmoil. This would certainly impede efforts of government to effect economic recovery and overhaul the country constitutionally, administratively, morally and socially. In return, this could damage Imran Khan’s credibility and capability to bring about the change. This is the bare minimum benefit which opposition would desperately like to bag to keep themselves afloat politically. Though it is a negative politics yet they would feel no scruple in pursuing it for self-preservation. In brief, due to conflicting compulsions of both sides, country is likely to face a long drawn obstinate conflict.
— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.