Divided in opposition: PPP-PTI tiff a godsend for govt

PML-N to cash in on verbal duel between two key opposition parties

Sardar Sikander October 24, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The widening gulf between the PPP and PTI triggered by a verbal duel is a godsend for the ruling PML-N in the face of Imran Khan’s plan to lock down the federal capital on Nov 2. The government has heaved a sigh of relief because it will be easy for them to deal with a divided opposition, according to insiders.

“It was expected. It was obvious,” a PML-N leader told The Express Tribune while referring to the war of words between the two main opposition parties. “For them to follow the same course is too good to be true,” he added.

The government can easily cash in on the PPP-PTI tiff. And perhaps this is the reason the ruling party is not making any effort to establish backdoor contacts with Imran’s party, though the prime minister has formed a ministerial committee to garner parliamentary support against the lockdown plan. Interestingly however, the committee has not specifically planned to contact the PPP either to muster their support.

“Being the country’s largest opposition party, the PPP deserves to be approached by the government at a  bilateral level,” a PPP leader said on the condition of anonymity.

“This time around, the PML-N looks indifferent, probably because it is confident that it can brave the odds,” he added.

Recalling the PTI’s marathon dharna, he said: “Things were very different in 2014 when the ruling party was dependent on us and other political parties. Surviving through that episode encouraged the ruling party to face this situation with or without us.”

PML-N insiders believe stakes are too high for the PPP to join hands with the PTI. “Anti-government rhetoric aside, the PPP knows it is part and parcel of this system like us. It knows our survival lies in democratic stability,” a ruling party leader said requesting anonymity.

“The PPP may have some issues regarding political developments in Karachi where every stakeholder wants more than its share but that will never prompt the opposition party to cross the red line,” he added.

At a recent rally in Karachi, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari spelt out four demands which include reconstitution of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, appointment of a regular foreign minister, implementation of resolutions adopted by all-party conference during the PPP tenure, and passage of PPP’s Panama Papers Inquiries Act 2016 from Parliament.

The PPP chairman also threatened to launch a long march on December 27, if these demands are not met by then. “This is political give and take. The PPP knows well that all but one demand is acceptable to the government,” a government official said.

“The appointment of a foreign minister is already under consideration and so is the reconstitution of the national security committee. The government is also willing to address the reservations of all stakeholders regarding CPEC. Barring the Panama inquiry bill, all these issues are pretty much solvable. It would be interesting if they go for a long march in pursuit of these demands,” he added.

Opposition leader Khursheed Shah, who belongs to the PPP, sought to dispel the impression that his party was pressing for the four demands to gain political mileage ahead of the PTI sit-in. “Even after the sit-in, our demands will be there. I hope the government shows political maturity to brave the brewing crisis. Otherwise, things will be disastrous,” he told The Express Tribune.

About the government’s apparent willingness to accept all but one demand, Shah said, “Let’s not pre-empt and presume. Let’s leave it for the time when we sit down, talk and figure it out whether or not they are sincere to accept our demands.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2016.


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