Battle lines have been clearly drawn as harsh statements are given publically by the two major parties in the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance – the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Though a ceasefire between the two largest opposition parties has been announced, yet it apparently could not save the six-month old 10-party-anti-government alliance, which now seems to be “dead as a dodo”.
Background interviews with the lawmakers from both the parties suggest that the PPP appears to be all set to part ways with the PDM – and the PML-N – allowing Prime Minister Imran Khan having had the last laugh.
The lawmakers were contacted following the appointment of PPP’s Yusuf Raza Gilani as the Senate opposition leader, hours after he filed the application for his candidacy. The PML-N wanted the coveted post for its senator, claiming that the matter was decided in a PDM meeting earlier.
“The PDM is as dead as a dodo, the PPP has decided to go alone through the ‘mother of all deals’ and the PML-N is left behind, all alone, holding the baby with the bathwater,” a PML-N senator said on the condition of anonymity.
Publically, the PDM is still intact but the growing differences between the two largest opposition parties have sounded death knell for the anti-government alliance. “PDM is now dead and today it’s been given an indecent burial,” the PML-N senator expressed.
Under Senate rules, a two-week period after the election of the Senate chairman is stipulated for filing papers for the post of the leader of the opposition. March 26 was the last date for the filing the application.
The PML-N senator claimed that majority in the PDM supported the PML-N but the “PPP bypassed it”. Admitting that the strategy of a joint struggle against the PTI was in shambles now, the senator said: “It was always a case of power politics [PPP] vs people’s politics [PML-N].”
“The PPP played on both sides of the wicket,” he maintained, adding: “[PPP] has now preferred to position itself for a substantive role in the next election round, in 2023, with a ‘soft induction’ in the current power structure, according to the rules of the game set by the establishment.”
The lawmaker admitted that the problem with the PML-N strategy was that it had no “Plan B” and that it was a fact the party woke up to a rather rude shock – being politically outsmarted by former president Asif Zardari and his son. Adopting extreme approach, he added, was another fault of the PML-N leadership.
A PPP senator, while revealing the other side of the story, said that the PML-N lawmakers were publically “telling a lie” that the PML-N would have given the office of the leader of the opposition in the Senate to the PPP had it asked for it.
“Zardari Sahib tried to reach Nawaz Sharif but Ishaq Dar told him that no discussion could take place on the issue,” the PPP lawmaker revealed, adding that all the PML-N did was that it finalised Senator Azam Nazir Tarar’s name for the slot; informed the PPP about it and started the process of filing papers in Senate two days ago.
The PPP leader said that the party leadership recorded its protest over Tarar’s nomination but the PML-N leadership maintained that “it’s a settled issue for us and we can’t talk on it”.
The PPP leader added that “the future of the PDM is in their [PML-N] hands but one thing is clear that things will not go on if they keep dictating us. Neither are we fools nor ready to obey orders”.
Also read: PPP is using PDM for personal gains: PML-N
The senator, while referring to the PML-N’s leader of the opposition in the National Assembly and chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said that the PML-N can’t have all three offices in the parliament, especially, when they closed the doors for discussion on the leader of the opposition slot in the upper house of parliament.
Replying to PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal’s statement that the PPP found the senators of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) to be more trustworthy, the legislator said that the PPP had the votes to get the opposition leader’s post even without the independent members from Balochistan.
The lawmaker emphasised that the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and the Awami National Party (ANP) along with independent senators from former federally-Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) supported the PPP along with a group of four senator formed by Senator Dilawar.
Countering the argument that the PPP has dented the opposition’s alliance, the lawmaker said that the PPP did not question motives, when the Chaudhrys of Gujrat brokered a major deal between the government and the opposition that paved the way for Senate elections in Punjab without voting.
Before the Senate polls, the Chaudhrys – Shujaat Hussain and Parvaiz Elahi – had used their experience and contacts across the party lines to ensure that every party got its due share in the Senate polls from the largest province of the country. “We [PPP] never called the deal in Punjab a set-up nor have we made any allegations,” the lawmaker concluded.