The real news-making surprise that the PML-N could have staged on Friday was to manage the deliberate-looking absence of a significant number of PPP MNAs from their seats when the house was asked to vote for the new prime minister.
After all, for many weeks some top ranking opposition legislators have been repeatedly telling various journalists in whispers that a solid group of 30-plus PPP members of the National Assembly was in active contact with them. They were reported as if dying to switch sides, provided Nawaz Sharif committed to own them while contesting the next election.
While bringing the whispered number out into the open, the PML-N could have easily furnished substantive weight to its demand for a fresh parliamentary election, but it seemed miserably failing on that count. From a different angle, Friday’s election had rather proven for another time that the PPP-opponents have no game to play. They exclusively rely on extra-parliamentary forces, the superior judiciary these days, to see the back of their rivals.
When confronted with the above-stated points, a front ranking PML-N legislator simply attempted to act statesmanlike. “We could surely have managed the absence of a noticeable number from the ruling party benches,” he boasted with confidence. “But that might have led to instant dissolution of the house. We do not want that to happen just like that; for it will only help those who want to install a government of the so-called honest, able and patriotic technocrats with no intention of holding elections in the near future.”
The same legislator could, however, not spin any convincing story when asked to explain as to why his party failed to strike a deal with Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI-F. That could at least have shown to us that the PML-N was no more interested to play it solo. It has finally learnt the ropes of broadening support and was willing put itself on the path of consensus building.
Ironic it may sound, yet the fact remains that the crafty Maulana was not interested to put himself as a candidate to the prime minister’s office. He had rather sought a meeting with Nawaz Sharif after the sacking of Gilani to persuade him that after joining hands and putting up a single candidate, both their parties should clearly convey it to the PPP, by overt and discreet channels, that they wanted the new prime minister to invite the opposition leader for negotiations via his maiden speech after getting elected. In the said speech, the Maulana had suggested, the newly elected prime minister should clearly state in which month he wanted to hold the next election and then invite the opposition leader to sit with him to finalise the name of new Chief Election Commissioner and the prime minister heading the interim government formed to hold those elections. Apparently, the Maulana had failed to sell a sane-sounding line to Nawaz Sharif and in absolute anger and frustration opted to put his own name as a candidate to the prime minister’s office.
The self-presumed ‘well-wishers’ of the PPP in the meantime had been enduring anxiety cramps throughout Thursday on another count. They felt betrayed, cheated and flabbergasted over the selection of ‘Raja Rental’ as the final choice of President Zardari for the prime minister’s office. Until very late on Thursday night, scores of such intellectuals, senior journalists and famous lawyers used every route and middle persons to somehow convey it to President Zardari that by putting Qamarzaman Kaira as the PPP candidate, he could “still salvage the sinking reputation of his party and the government”. Doing this, they conveniently forgot that Zardari just needed a dispensable pawn to stay in the game. The Kaira types were like the crucial and precious knights and bishops for him. He could not afford sending any of them to the prime minister’s office only for some weeks until they were sent home a la Gilani in a humiliating manner.
The selection of ‘Raja Rental’ clearly suggests that Zardari will now play the political game with a hands-on mindset. It will be either/or war until the finish and his first priority remains to protect and sustain the system that we got through the NRO-driven elections of 2008 and then his second objective is to get many more weeks and months for his newly placed prime minister, until the PPP feels confident for going to the fresh elections “after at least addressing the issue of load shedding in a visible manner”.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2012.
Correction: In an earlier version of the story, “Raja Pervaiz” was incorrectly written as “Raja Riaz” in the headline. The error has been rectified.
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