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Monday, April 15, 2024

Pakistan Democratic Movement at a standstill

The writer believes Pakistan is poitically at a point where the main opposition parties will be facing internal fissures and a bilateral trust deficit.

Political environment post-September 20th APC, has become murkier and fragile for the alliance formed under the name of “Pakistan Democratic Movement.” With every passing day, new details of meetings of opposition political leaders with the establishment are coming into light.

Earlier came of the news of joint opposition’s meeting with COAS and DG ISI on September 16th regarding Gilgit Baltistan’s political status and later on PML-N leader Mohammad Zubair’s secret meetings with COAS which was disclosed by none other than DG ISPR himself, and later on confirmed by Mohammad Zubair.

Also recently came the bombshell statement of Maryam Nawaz that politicians shouldn’t have met army leadership at GHQ on political issues and this should’ve been done at parliament. Although the same day, her party’s leader Mohammad Zubair’s meeting with Army leadership news came to the fore.

Significantly it is still to be decided that who will be heading the 11 parties opposition alliance. With already more than a week passed since APC and no clear leader to head alliance, things do not look good so far.

With all these developments going on at a very fast pace, let’s look at what will happen from this day till January 2021 – when allied opposition parties will give a call for a long march to Islamabad.

Lets have analytical look at what major stakeholders will be doing in the next three months:

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PML-N & the Democratic Movement 

With Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz spearheading the anti-establishment mantra, it will be very hard for the lot which is being led by Shehbaz Sharif to make a delicate balance between going for anti government/anti establishment movement and maintaining contacts with powers that be.

These three months will be most testing times for the political acumen of PML-N President and younger brother of Nawaz Sharif, as he has to maintain cohesion in his party’s ranks whereas keep close contacts with other major parties of opposition alliance like PPP and JUI-F.

Also with the sword of arrest pertaining to corruption case against him hanging on his head, he will have to chart a course of what will happen if he goes behind bars. Who will lead party in the run up to January 2021, whether it will be Maryam Nawaz or any of his close confidants?

PML-N will have to do a lot of explaining to other opposition parties about the secret meetings between its leaders and army leadership, as these developments will adversely affect the already fragile trust between alliance partners.

The interesting part within PML-N in next three months will be to observe who will have upper hand when January approaches, whether it will be Shehbaz Sharif or Maryam Nawaz?

Most importantly last but not least – will Nawaz Sharif stay quiet in next three months or will he let his Twitter handle talking like it has in the last few days.

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Like PML-N, PPP too will face serious internal struggle as the shrewd and pragmatic politician inside Zardari will not allow his party’s young Chairman Bilawal to go till the last breath for a movement against PTI government riding on an anti-establishment plank of Nawaz Sharif.

People will keep a hard look on what Bilawal will do in next three months, whether he will maintain close contact with Shehbaz Sharif, the PML-N President or will he prefer to keep liaison with Nawaz Sharif/Maryam Nawaz duo.

Pressure will mount on PPP from allied parties regarding quitting the Sindh governmentt, it will be interesting to watch what stand the party will take as only a handful in PPP will opt to advise its leadership to go for that option.

What will also be interesting to watch is how much Maulana Fazl will be ready to trust PPP especially after his mic getting muted during APC speech. Although Bilawal did meet him last week in Karachi to pacify Maulana’s suspicion about PPP, to what extent has he been able to allay JUI-F Supremo’s apprehensions will be observed keenly by close circles.

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Although Maulana is blowing very hot lately regarding PTI government and establishment, it can be only a matter of time when the pragmatic politician comes out of him. So one has to keep a very close eye on JUI-F supremo in the next three months. democratic movement

The most interesting part will come on October 1st as Maulana has been summoned by NAB and he has already rubbished the accountability body’s summon into the dustbin, hence the first day of next month will be important to watch.

JUI-F chief it seems is aspiring to become 11 party alliance head, but keeping his recent belligerence mood towards the establishment in mind PPP and PML-N (especially Shehbaz Sharif) might refrain from giving alliance leadership to Maulana.

The media front  

Any political movement needs a vibrant and cohesive media backing, which sadly in today’s Pakistan doesn’t seems to be the case. Strongly polarized and politically divided media will not help the cause of opposition’s movement against govt in the next three months.

Broadcast to print media aligned with PTI and establishment will go to any length to torpedo the opposition’s planned campaign against the incumbent ruling arrangement. Whereas the section of the journalistic community which has soft corner for opposition is already divided between different groups…one looking towards Nawaz/Maryam combine, another has soft corner for Shehbaz Sharif or some have high hopes from Bilawal Bhutto.

All in all, media which has historically always been an integral part of any political movement in the country will not be in any position to coherently back the opposition’s campaign in next three months.

So here we are where all the main opposition parties will be facing internal fissures and bilateral trust deficit, whereas media will enjoy the circus being generated by the different secret meetings coming into open in the next three months. Hence opposition’s anti-government movement seems a non-starter or it will be an engine without steam.

Shabbir Khan