Tempo rises in political musical chairs
The next year will be packed with offers, counter-offers, horse-trading and shifting alliances.
The dizzying game of musical chairs that is Pakistani politics is only going to induce more nausea in the year or so left till the next general elections. For the past few weeks, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the former foreign minister for the PPP, has been holding meetings with the PML-N, including with chief Nawaz Sharif, before deciding which party to join.
Part of the reason for Qureshi’s vacillation between the PML-N and the PTI is his desire for a leadership position in whichever party he joins. To that end, sources close to Qureshi have been spinning a new scenario for the last one week. They claim that Qureshi may just strike it out on his own. According to sources, Qureshi is gearing up to form a new party, for which he hopes to get about 20 to 25 PPP members and other dissidents, like former PML-Q member Marvi Memon.
But this scenario is not being taken seriously by the PML-N, which doesn’t give credence to the rumours and believes they are being deployed by Qureshi as a bargaining chip. Talks between the PML-N and Qureshi, however, have reached an impasse. A PML-N source says that while they would be delighted to have Qureshi in the party, they are not as yet willing to give him a senior position. This is partly because the party is yet to be convinced by Qureshi’s insistence that he will bring a good chunk of the PPP’s Punjab cadre with him.
With or without Qureshi, the PML-N is now gearing up for the second phase of the movement to force President Asif Zardari from government. Leader Nawaz Sharif, who was in London for the past one week, is now returning to Islamabad to take the reins of the protest movement from his brother Shahbaz Sharif. The tenor of the campaign, say PML-N sources, will now change somewhat. Instead of relying on the combative Shahbaz, Nawaz is going to spend the next week in Islamabad trying to convince opposition parties like the JUI-F to sign up with the PML-N agenda. The focus of the protests will also shift away from attacking Zardari personally and instead raise issues of corruption, economic mismanagement and loadshedding.
Worried about the rise of the PTI, the PML-N is also approaching the Jamaat-e-Islami for a possible electoral alliance but has so far been rebuffed. A PML-N source claims that there is division within the JI about which party they should ally with. Former JI chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed is apparently in favour of allying with the PML-N while current head Munawwar Hasan is more comfortable with the PTI. Hasan has already reached out to the PTI to begin negotiations on a coalition for the next elections.
How all these talks pan out is anybody’s guess. What is certain is that the next year will be packed with offers, counter-offers, horse-trading and shifting alliances.