Pir Pagara, Muslim League and a two-party system for Pakistan
The merger of the Muslim Leagues could signal that we are moving towards a two-party system in Pakistan.
On October 29 four factions of the Muslim League met in Karachi to form a United Muslim League, under the leadership of PML-F leader Pir Pagara. Although the PML-N and PML-Q were not represented at the meeting, the latter had already formed a coalition with Pir Pagara's PML-F, under the name All Pakistan Muslim League (APML).
This recent move in the political arena has caught many a politicos' attention. It has been seen by some pundits as a great leap towards a stronger right-wing and two party system, whereas other analysts see it as a needless maneuver by a flock of seasonal politicians. Disregarding all theories, it is quite evident that this exercise will fail if it lacks the PML-N's support.
Also, it is hard to picture Punjab's king-maker leagues – the PML-N and PML-Q – uniting under one umbrella. Especially with the burden of history and hostility the leaders on both sides carry for each other. One thing that could bring the two together in a United Muslim League would be the fear of a divided vote bank in Punjab. History shows that when the Muslim Leagues compete, the rightist vote is divided and the Pakistan Peoples Party succeeds.
Some of the leaders joining the United Muslim League have also hinted at the possibility of inviting former President Pervez Musharraf's APML, along with Imran Khan's Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. Joining hands with Musharraf's party in an alliance would be unacceptable to Mian Nawaz Sharif and undoubtedly, political suicide for his party, the PML-N.
A cynic would perceive no upcoming change, but an optimistic view would suggest otherwise. This could be the time in Pakistan's political history that we finally see a genuine two-party system develop. A United Muslim League can take the role of right-wing politics, while Pakistan Peoples Party can hold on to its leftist, liberal agenda. This would clarify the differences between the two ideologies and would give voters an easily distinguishable option.
Pakistan – just like any other mature democracy – needs a two party system. Democracy will strengthen only when there are two strong parties, rather than many weak ones ready to be pawns of the establishment's great games. It is not merely a theoretical idea, which can be dismissed as western or foreign to Pakistani society, but is part of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's vision.
Despite the outcome of the recent political ramblings, the requirement for the development of a strong federation - a two-party system - seems to be an imminent reality for Pakistan.