The political waltz is picking up pace. As fourth year of elected government ends, and a fatigue for democratic dispensation sets in, the country’s two largest parties have started aping each other, step for step, in an effort to either topple the rival, or make it politically irrelevant.
In an apparent tit-for-tat move against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s sit-in outside the presidency last week, the Pakistan Peoples Party, along with members of PML-Q staged a sit-in outside the Punjab chief minister’s office to protest against the provincial government’s ‘incompetence’ in controlling the dengue onslaught.
The sit-in, that lasted a mere 15 minutes, was led by opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz Ahmed and PPP’s Punjab president Imtiaz Safdar Warraich, after they staged a walkout from the Punjab Assembly.
Nawaz Sharif should seek Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s resignation, on account of his inability to control the ongoing health crisis in Punjab, Ahmed said.
“The [Punjab] chief minister is incompetent … and has turned the province into a financial defaulter,” he said.
Almost on cue, the provincial government announced that it would provide Rs 500,000 as compensation to the family of each person who died as a result of dengue.
“We will provide assistance to every patient after having the health department conduct an inquiry,” Shahbaz said on Saturday. Those who are financially stable can opt not to take this money, he added.
The pledge came amidst three more deaths in Lahore on Saturday as a result of dengue, taking the death toll in Punjab to 227, with 203 deaths in Lahore alone.
Toppling the government
Not far, in Raiwind, PML-N leaders thrashed a strategy to topple the PPP-led government ‘within the next two months,’ sources told The Express Tribune.
According to the strategy detailed at the party’s core committee meeting, Nawaz Sharif will lead rallies across Pakistan to observe public sentiment and gauge whether voters are ready for an early election. If, by December 2011, the PML-N feels the public is ready, the party will hold a long-march to Islamabad. Party’s lawmakers, in both national and Punjab assembly, would announce their resignations, and stage a sit-in until the incumbent government is toppled over, sources said.
The entire strategy, they added, hinges on public sentiment. If people appear not ready for the next elections, the PML-N would go back to the drawing board and devise a strategy on fighting the Senate and the next general elections.
Confirming the calendar of public rallies, PML-N’s leader Ahsan Iqbal said his party has decided to launch a movement against the PPP over three issues – power crisis, corruption and inflation.
Gilani rebukes PML-N
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani condemned the ‘politics of agitation’ by PML-N, which, he said, wanted the fall of PPP-led government before Senate elections in March.
“There are all the indications that PPP will emerge as a single largest party in the Senate after March elections with its coalition partners, and they [PML-N leaders] want the fall of government before March by hook or by crook,” Gilani said in a television interview Saturday evening.
The premier criticised the PML-N for promoting the ‘politics of agitation’ in the name of loadshedding or any other issue. “It will not be acceptable to masses,” he said.
To a question about the reports of PML-N’s intentions for en-bloc resignations from the assemblies to block the Senate elections, he said: “I have talked to several PML-N parliamentarians, who said they will not support any such move.”
(With additional input from APP)
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2011.