ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has decided to press its demand of holding mid-term elections whenever the party feels that ‘hidden forces’ are out to derail the country’s fragile democratic system, members of the party said.
The decision was finalised during party meetings held recently in Lahore and Islamabad, two close associates of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif told The Express Tribune. “It is our resolve that we will never let anybody put Pakistan on an undemocratic track again,” a member of the party said. “We will demand immediate polls if there is no other way,” he added.
Earlier this year in June, the PML-N dropped a hint on its intention to seek immediate polls, for a different reason though. “There might be mid-term elections if a large number of parliamentarians turn out to be fake degree holders,” PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had then said while talking to the media. “I think by-polls would not be an option in that case,” he had said.
The PML-N’s new political strategy comes amid unconfirmed but frequent reports in both the national and international media that Pakistan’s powerful security establishment wants to install a broad-based apolitical setup of politicians and technocrats.
Sharif’s party considers itself as a government-in-waiting and feels that it will be the main casualty of any plan of installing an interim setup.
“If the military-backed setup comes in, it won’t be for weeks or months. It will be there for years. And we will have to wait for our turn during that time,” said another member of the PML-N, who was present at the party’s Lahore meeting chaired by Sharif. “Mian Sahib shares this view. In fact, it is his own… that’s why the decision to demand mid-term polls was made in case of, you know, any threat to democracy,” he added. “It (mid-term polls) is going to be a buzzword in our party.”
Nawaz Sharif himself came up with his strongest statement so far against what experts saw a ‘discreet’ plan to dismantle the parliament and force the elected government to pack up.
“Nobody should try to invite martial law by portraying the failure of the government as of democracy,” he told media in Lahore last week after chairing a two-day meeting of the top leaders of his party.
Within days then, Sharif travelled to Islamabad to have another interaction with his aides and in a meeting in the federal capital, the former premier decided to welcome back party leaders, except for a few, who betrayed Sharif to join former president Pervez Musharraf after a military coup in 1999.
All these developments, an Islamabad-based political analyst Haris Khaliq said, indicate that the PML-N has the ‘highest stakes’ in the incumbent democratic system.
“Their survival in the long term depends upon the continuity of the system,” said Khaliq.
Another member of the PML-N said the party would also try to convince other groups for agreeing to its mid-term election strategy and is likely to hold meetings with top leaders of these parties soon.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2010.