(A commentary analyzing the conditions that led to the now open confrontation between PML-N and PPP after the Supreme Court’s verdict disqualifying Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif from electoral politics).
There we go again…
The seeds of this impending implosion were laid in the very victory of democratic forces on February 18, 2008 when a free and fair elections brought eight-years of General Musharraf’s illegitimate rule to an end. The seeds lay in the split in Pakistan’s civil society and democratic forces that took place at the very moment of their victory. These seeds were:
- Inability of large part of the ‘lawyers movement’ to realize that a credible election just took place despite their call for its boycott. That the basis of this election was none other than the ‘political deal’ hammered out between PPP and General Musharraf that they had vociferously decried. Instead of realizing this new political reality and reaching out to the other side for hammering a bargain, they opted for continuation of their confrontational politics as if they were still battling General Musharraf.
- Inability of the leadership of PPP, particularly President Zardari, and its coalition partners (MQM and ANP) to fully appreciate that ‘the deal’ itself was made possible by the struggle of the lawyers movement and other democratic forces and they also needed to reach out to them and somehow bring them in the fold.
For each to have accommodated the other, it was imperative that the NRO and ‘the deal’ itself should have been accepted on one hand and the judiciary, including Chief Justice Chaudhry restored on the other.
Of such short-sightedness are political blunders made. All those who have supported one position or the other, instead of the compromise, are also guilty. This is a collective failure on our part, not just of the political players.
Pakistan is straight heading for a train wreck and the biggest losers will be the (divided) civil society and democratic forces notwithstanding their heroic 60-year struggle.
There is still time for both sides to pull back. Relevant questions each will ask are following:
- Could President Zardari be isolated from a good portion of its leadership and thus the divide between the democratic forces bridged this way?
- If not, would the lawyers movement (with help from political opponents of Zardari) pull back its threatened ‘march and sit-in’ and offer some kind of a compromise?
- Is there a possibility of ‘cooler heads’ in both camps to prevail on each other and a middle ground found?
- Would General Kayani see in this confronation a chance for him personally to enter the corridors of power illegally and thus destroy the remaining Pakistan?
I would plead that each of us work for Option # 3 and avoid the zero-sum game that the infantile Pakistani establishment and political forces inevitably can not stop from playing.
Shaheryar Azher is the Moderator of ‘The Forum’, where this commentary was first shared.