Politics is about leading initiatives. A smart politician takes the lead on issues that are of public import. He is a spinmaster who weaves dreams and makes sure he is seen working towards them. A successful politician also makes sure he is viewed as the first who picks up on a public interest issue. Even if he trails the pack in the beginning, it’s imperative that he wrest the initiative and head to the finish line.
PML-N played its cards brilliantly yesterday. In a moment of political sagacity, it stole the wind from the PPP sails, taking the lead in advocating for a separate south Punjab province. It was PPP’s crown for the last year or two. They had raised their voice for a separate province for south Punjab hoping to cash in on the popularity of the cause during the next elections.
It’s no secret that PML-N was not keen on having more provinces in Punjab. The southern part of the province has been its soft under belly. It does not have as much presence there as in the central and northern part of the province. If a southern province is sliced out, PML-N has little chance of coming into office there. But in the face of popular demand they cannot afford to be seen opposing the cause.
So PML-N had to do the following. One, they must show support for the cause. Two, they should own the cause and be seen leading it. Three, they must put in caveats in the resolution so that the formation of the province is delayed. In a political master-stroke they accomplished all three yesterday.
PML-N was the sponsor and mover of the resolution yesterday. PPP was seen playing second fiddle to the PML-N in the house. All the Raja Riaz-led pack could do was say ‘yes’ out loud when Rana Sanaullah was reading the resolution. PML-N brilliantly inserted two caveats: the resolution to create a Bahawalpur province and the demand to set up a commission to oversee the modalities.
Seraikis from DG Khan, Multan, Muzaffargarh and Mianwali will never wholeheartedly support Bahawalpur province. And even if one is created it would dilute the impact of the erosion of power that the PML-N might suffer from after the creation of one big southern province.
The demand to set up a commission is a sure shot way of delaying the whole project. Abbotabad commission, memo commission, Saleem Shahzad commission are all examples. Well played PML-N.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2012.