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Playing both sides

Munir Ahmed

The writer is the Director Devcom-Pakistan, an Islamabad-based policy advocacy and outreach think tank.

Congratulations to PTI (Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf) for winning 15 seats in the by-elections for the Punjab provincial assembly, 50 per cent more than what they expected. Another miracle in the recent political history of Pakistan. Yet not clear who is behind the miracle. With these seats, PML-Q (Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid) Pervaiz Elahi has been elected as Chief Minister of Punjab. 

The Sunday by-elections has changed the number game in the Punjab Assembly with 178 PTI members and 10 PML-Q. 

PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) has very generously accepted the defeat. First time in the history of Pakistan’s politics the losing party has not blamed the winner or the military for conspiring the rigging in polls. Another strange miracle. However, the Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has said that anything, a miracle, can happen till the polling for the Punjab CM slot. Wait and see. Apparently it seems that the only politicians are playing democratic or non-democratic games with each other without any hidden support. Unfortunately, it is not. I strongly believe that some forces are playing both sides with winning moves for a party.

The deepening rift between PML-N and the military establishment is no longer a secret. Despite an evidently proven sequence of events and facts, some of the PML-N leaders were trying to reconcile with the establishment. They continued struggling even before the no-confidence motion in the National Assembly against the then Prime Minister Imran Ahmed Niazi (the Imran Khan). The struggling PML-N leaders believed that they had a positive nod from the establishment to form the government. Yes, it was so because the uniformed personnel had to rescue their blue-eyed horse that was drowning deep into rising inflation and borrowings, fast losing friendly countries and backing of international financial institutions. PTI has lost the public trust. Extremely, Pakistan had annoyed the US for wrong diplomacy tactics.

In the meanwhile, an untimely decision of the PML-N and its coalition parties, actually the political opponents of PML-N, surfaced to shoulder the PTI political deficit and foreign diplomacy burden. Just in three months, the coalition government’s honeymoon is going to end very soon in the federal capital after losing government in the Punjab province. Signs are becoming visible on the changing political scenario once again that the smaller political parties will be changing their side to PTI for another no-confidence motion in the National Assembly.

PML-N president, presently the prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif is designed to lose the premiership and with a heavy dent to PML-N’s political stature and public image. Seems, the dark nights ahead for PML-N. A joy of the political win is obvious on the face of Asif Ali Zardari who aspires to see his son Bilwal Bhutto Zardari prime minister of Pakistan in his life. Bilawal becomes prime minister or not in Zardari’s life, but political parties in the PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) have turned bleak for the PML-N future.

The Establishment has played well on both sides. First, in the win of PTI in 2018 and regaining the political public repute now. Big applause. Seems, all is set for the Prime Minister Imran Khan to make all the very crucial appointments in the coming November that would be a plus for the long-term political sustainability of PTI. Sometime in the future, it would be revealed that the PTI chief’s establishment bashing and shouting slogans against the US were to build a public narrative to regain the lost political repute. And, it was done by them all together – the state institutions to make their blue-eyed one a hero of the masses at the cost of national interests.

Pakistan suffered a lot economically and at the foreign policy fronts since PTI dharnas against the Previous PML-N government. The stories of its causes and objectives are well known by the public. No need to repeat them all here. It was again a success story of playing both sides by the actual players. Not new to Pakistani, even known to the international powers too. If not short of memory, the US has been shouting in 1980s that President General Zia ul Hq was playing both sides. Same statements were repeated against President General Pervaiz Musharraf. Some politicians and others active players are doing the same even today. Only a fair play will strengthen democracy in Pakistan if we really need it.

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