Pros and Cons

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

WE ought not be fooled into thinking the opposition lacks direction and vacillates. Being adaptive and responsive to circumstances is different from being confused and at a loss. Not having narrow tunnel vision is not equivalent to lacking focus; nor is uncompromising rigidity always a sign of strength. Undeniably, the parties in the PDM have different agendas and outlooks, and the PPP and PML-N especially are in fierce competition. What should give everyone cause for thought is that, despite these differences, they, and other significant parties and leading figures in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, are united in regarding the incumbent federal government’s prolonged inadequacy and the PM’s fixation on excluding oppositional politicians, and repeated trespasses into provincial management with a view to extending his party’s terrain, as straining the national fabric.

It seems beyond the understanding of partymen in the office of federal government that it is possible to subscribe to a principle but disapprove of the specifics of the proposed method of enforcing it. Thus, to accuse the PPP’s Bilawal of a U-turn on the show-of-hands mode of balloting in elections to the Senate election is to sidestep – or worse, fail to see – that his objection is to the distortion of parliamentary process and the bulldozing of far-reaching legislation without duly considered debate. Again, when the opposition was earlier badmouthed for delaying legislation as to requisite FATF measures, their hesitation was not because they did not give two hoots about Pakistan’s gray-listing shading to black, but because accompanying legislation regarding NAB’s accountability toolkit could enable sundry official authorities to constrain at will any citizen (unless leisurely majestic legal process might deem fit to reason why). The opposition was not demanding any retrospective NRO; it was protecting anonymous citizens from prospective unwarranted personal harassment. Still earlier, when the opposition eventually went along with an amendment enabling a proposed extension of the then incumbent but soon to retire COAS; it was not because it was currying favour with, or cowering before, a powerful — if not defining — military factor in politics, but because it perceived the relevance of the proposal after modifications ensuring appropriate and clearly defined consideration of specific circumstances.  In fact, many so-called inconsistencies, defeats and surrenders reflect an objectivity. Legislation is not debated merely from a prism of ‘who proposed it, us or them’ or ‘does it benefit the other side more than ours.’ 

Where citizens ought to fault the PDM is that its varied parties have not – either individually or collectively – offered solid alternative programs for remedying existing structural and functional ills. It is in danger of letting its mode become as simplistic or void as the PTI’s method of government. It is not enough that the discharge of executive and legislative duties in the past was more effective. The present style of governance has taken away all sense of direction from citizens. The electorate craves knowledge of the navigational course proposed for the ship of state, and the hows and whys that chart and determine its direction. For a democratic-minded opposition to bank on riding popular desperation is to risk unseating itself along with the government it would like to replace. People crave normalcy in daily life; and are uneasy that mob pressures and the vigilante approach in sociopolitical intercourse are being enhanced, unwittingly or otherwise. If nuclear Pakistan appears to be a failed or failing state it could well be subject to international minders: Presumptions as to a volatile Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction provided the rationale for intervention by high-minded guardians of world safety.

The PM in televised telephonic conversation intended to be at least as much a thrill for fans as getting his autograph for spectators at cricket matches of yore, also sought to charm critics and convince cynics. Over and above the usual stressing of his own world renown and achievements, he pointed out a unique feat in having emerged as the third alternative to the twice and thrice-tried PPP and PMLN and thereby smashing the stale corrupt two-party democratic system.

Would he have us think he is our country’s last or only hope? It would be more accurate to declare that he led the party he founded into its present domination of the political mainstream. It does not follow that the parties and the ‘dynastic’ leadership he detests are off the political map for all time to come or devoid of existing electoral standing. Fourth and fifth alternatives may evolve and grow to follow his third. Our smasher of a PM needs to be reminded he heads a tenuously contrived federal government. He is more at the mercy of coalitional support than his partners are on him for continuous electoral viability:  For despite ever-enlarging expat goodwill and assistance, and the research of serendipitously offshore investigative agencies — both fiscal and journalistic – such as Broadsheet and the IFJ’s documentation of PanamaLeaks — Pakistan’s politics is yet to move entirely offshore or be wholly outsourced.