Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Daily Times Editorial July 17, 2014

Triangular political rivalry An interesting simultaneous distancing and convergence of erstwhile political ‘friends’ and ‘enemies’ has emerged in recent days. PPP Co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari, whose party was widely viewed as a ‘friendly’ opposition to the incumbent PML-N government (justified by the PPP as its support to the continuance of the democratic system), has delivered a broadside against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Zardari has ‘reminded’ Nawaz Sharif that he has been elected a prime minister and not an absolute monarch. Further, he has said that he is at a loss to understand why the government has been resisting Imran Khan’s demand for a vote recount in four constituencies. According to Mr Zardari, the heavens would not fall if four constituencies saw a vote recount. In fact, he went on, a vote recount could be conducted in any constituency where there are complaints, be they even 40 instead of just four. The broadside appears to stem from Zardari’s annoyance at Nawaz Sharif’s ‘authoritarian’ style of ‘dictating’ to the Sindh government led by the PPP on issues such as law and order. Zardari and his party may also harbour serious apprehensions that the PML-N government’s ‘combative ‘ style (especially some of the statements of its hawkish ministers), may lead to a serious crisis and even the derailment of democracy if more and more opposition parties are alienated by the government on perfectly avoidable irritants. Whatever the reasons or motivation for Zardari’s bitter diatribe, Imran Khan has pounced upon it in classic opportunist style and used Zardari’s statements as ammunition to continue his own broadsides at the government. Even that may have been forgivable given that Zardari’s criticism brings grist to Imran Khan’s alleged rigging mill. However, for Imran Khan to wax lyrical as a result about the PPP government being better during its five years than Nawaz Sharif’s government in just one year, smacks of nothing but political opportunism considering that Imran hardly ever had a kind word for the PPP government throughout its five year tenure, let alone its Co-chairman, whom Imran had over the years cast in a lurid light. So, in a classic case of my enemy’s enemy is my friend, Imran Khan embraces Zardari to do down Nawaz Sharif. Let no one even breathe the word ‘principle’ here. Encouraged by Zardari’s ‘conversion’ from friendly to angry with the incumbent government, Imran Khan has taken advantage of the opportunity to resort to what appears to be a strategy of escalating demands. He now says the days of demanding a vote audit/recount in four constituencies s are long over. What he wants now is a total audit/recount of all constituencies as is being carried out in neighbouring Afghanistan in the wake of the controversial presidential run-off elections. The suspicion raises its head here that the PML-N government either wanted the four constituency demand to be decided y the election commission, tribunals, etc, or anticipated that Imran would up the ante at the first opportunity to demand what he has now: a total recount and possible mid-term elections. Either may explain their lack of interest in ‘helping’ Imran get what he (initially) wanted. Nawaz Sharif on the other hand, is still plying his mantra of shunning ‘negative’ politics and allowing the government to pursue its development agenda without unnecessary obstacles. So now the country is witness to the new emerging scenario of unlikely ‘friends’ the PPP and PTI, and even unlikelier ‘enemies’ PPP and PML-N. If the head swims by now, blame it on Pakistan’s Byzantine political culture. Does any of this have anything to do with the serious and grave problems the country faces? Trying to find such a connection would be a stretch. Imran Khan has ‘conceded’ his August 14 rally in Islamabad will be an evening affair and therefore not clash with the government’s planned Independence Day parade in the morning. One should be grateful for the small mercy of Imran Khan not raining on the government’s parade. The shenanigans of the political class at a time when the suffering of the people knows no bounds because of unemployment, inflation, the energy deficit and sundry other issues, not the least of which is security of life and limb, can only weaken its credibility, turn more and more people off ‘democracy’ because of its perceived failure to deliver anything of value to the people while providing no end of perks, privileges and ‘opportunities’ to the political class to make merry. And then some innocent souls ask why the demand for an authoritarian (or worse) dispensation refuses to die.

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