Right now, every action being taken by the PML-N is motivated by its desire to remove the PPP-led government from power and force early elections. From rallies against loadshedding to harsh invective against the president, the PML-N is determined to ensure that the government does not complete its term. The party’s latest gambit, floated by senior PML-N leaders, is that they may quit the assemblies within the next two months. When it comes to moves that may force the government out, this should be considered the nuclear option. Without the PML-N sitting in the assemblies, all provincial and federal government work would come to a halt and would, most likely, force the PPP to dissolve the assemblies and call for fresh elections.
There is every chance, however, that such a move, if carried out by the PML-N, would backfire on the party. Voters may blame the party for using such a blatantly partisan move to force out a legitimate government, and punish it accordingly at the polls. But that is a risk the PML-N is willing to take because of its potential upside. With Senate elections due in March, the PPP will finally get a majority in the upper house of parliament. That, as far as the PML-N is concerned, is D-Day. If they are unable to remove the government by then, the PPP will control at least one house of parliament for the next few years, no matter what the outcome of the next general elections.
Understandable though the PML-N’s haste for elections may be, they need to control their urges and let the duly-elected government serve out its term. Street rallies and parliamentary manoeuvrings may or may not force the government’s hand, but without a doubt they will strengthen forces in the country inimical to democracy. The military is probably licking its lips at the sight of Pakistan’s political parties unable to coexist with each other. It is precisely this type of scenario that the military has used to suspend the democratic process before. The PML-N, which was the last party to suffer this fate, would do well to remember that. For now, we should hope that its threat to resign its seats in the assemblies is an empty one.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2011.