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Opinion

March 6, 2018
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Beyond the Senate polls

Opinion

March 6, 2018

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During the 1990s, when a bill against floor-crossing was passed in parliament, the late Benazir Bhutto threw her weight behind this legislation.

The daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto also extended her blanket support to the abolition of the Eighth Amendment that kept hanging over the heads of successive elected governments like the sword of Damocles. Despite her differences with Nawaz Sharif, the first Muslim woman prime minister joined hands with the PML-N chief to ensure the supremacy of parliament, uphold rule of law and strengthen democratic values. The Charter of Democracy (CoD) is a testament to her will to see the supremacy of parliament.

The surprising victory of the PPP from KP in the recent Senate polls and the additional seats that the party won from Sindh might have startled many analysts. But it must have saddened the pro-democracy elements within the PPP. The party not only allegedly resorted to horse trading in the polls, but it also indulged in dirty politics in Balochistan before the Senate polls, where it extended a carte blanche to the machinations of the powers that be. The sudden change in the Balochistan government may have turned the Zardari camp in the party euphoric, but it has damaged the democratic credential of the PPP.

Many have wondered why PPP stalwarts opted to remain silent over the alleged horse trading and the support for the alleged designs of the non-democratic forces in Balochistan. At times, some of them have summoned enough courage to speak against the invisible powers in the land of the pure. But it is disappointing to see that they are unable to voice their reservations over the party’s dirty politics at any public forum. Would the PPP leaders like to explain what magical band the party has used to clinch two seats in the KP Assembly? Do they believe that the party has secured these seats by using fair means?

Zardari and his tedious acolytes have already lost their credibility. However, will those rare commodities within the party, who are widely respected for having an impeccable character, not risk damaging their reputation by opting to remain silent on this issue. The party deserves to be praised for nominating a Dalit woman for the seat of Senate. But one good act should not overshadow Zardari’s Machiavellian tactics.

The artificial majority gained through corrupt practices tends to evaporate the moment a party plunges into a crisis and no party should know this better than the PPP. It was cut down to size by the powers that be in 1988 – of course, with the help of Nawaz. Its size was further reduced in the early 2000s through the creation of the PPP-Patriots.

But the today’s truncated size of the PPP has nothing to do with alleged conspiracies by anti-democratic elements. In fact, it is the result of the massive corruption that the party has been accused of committing during its 10-year rule in Sindh and five-year tenure at the federal level. Although the PPP has been at the helm for a decade in Sindh, the country’s second-largest province has been deprived of access to pure drinking water, adequate health facilities and decent housing. Hepatitis appears to have spread like an epidemic in various parts of the province.

The results of the Senate polls clearly show that invisible hands do not necessarily succeed in all circumstances. The Nawaz camp demonstrated an unflinching loyalty to their leader. Even though there was tremendous pressure on party legislators, the deposed prime minister and his comrades emerged as triumphant. Will those analysts who predicted defection in the PML-N on a massive scale summon enough courage to admit their mistakes? Will they assess the situation on the ground instead of passing on information that is given to them? Will they avoid making such false claims in the future?

Much to the chagrin of their many detractors, Nawaz’s allies also won in Balochistan – though they were not as successful as they should have been. The arrival of the PPP leaders in Balochistan soon after the polls has fanned speculations that the Zardari-led camp, violating the principles of the CoD, wants to clinch the Senate chairmanship. The PML-N is the single largest party in the Upper House and could easily join hands with its allies and independents to secure the chairmanship. Only horse trading on a massive scale and anti-democracy machinations could deprive the party of this top slot.

No one with a modicum of common sense would heap praises on Nawaz for going to court in the Memogate scandal or lambasting former PM Yousaf Raza Gilani. But the PPP should also recall its decision to impose Governor Rule in Punjab during its tenure. Blunders were committed from both sides. However, there is no rationale for committing them again. Democracy is still fragile and is in the process of evolution. It needs the support of these two large parties that have become the symbol of the federation. Their infighting could deal a critical blow to democracy and the future of our country.

Nawaz may have committed many blunders, but his resolve to not topple the KP government and his decision to install Dr Malik as the chief minister of Balochistan did, to some extent, restore the people’s faith in national leaders. The PPP’s decision to pass the 18th Amendment and introduce a pro-democracy legislation created hope that the leaders of political parties could come up with a mechanism that might help the country tide over many of its inveterate problems.

But now, the infighting between both political parties is turning people into pessimists. For them, the 1990s seems to have returned with politicians washing their dirty linens in public. The saner elements within both parties should come up with a plan to respect democratic values. The ANP – which enjoys good ties with the PPP – and the National Party and Achakzai – who are close to Nawaz – should mediate between the two largest parties in the country.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman could also intervene and help both parties to unite again in the name of democracy and the future of the country. Any form of derailment within the system will benefit no one but our enemies. Therefore, it is important that sanity prevails and Zardari and Nawaz shake hands again in the larger interests of the country.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Email: [email protected]

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