Uncertainty over how the political scenario will play out, and the changing stance of the Pakistan Peoples Party leadership in the ongoing standoff with the security establishment, has forced its allied parties to remain on the sidelines and not to defend the government upfront.
The Muttahida Quami Movement and the Awami National Party, the two major allies of the incumbent PPP government, defend the government in public – albeit to a limited extent – but during informal chats both parties appear sceptical.
Background interaction with some leaders from the two parties, particularly the MQM, suggests that the PPP cannot claim unwavering support from its allies.
“They (the PPP leadership) have no idea what they are doing, they should realise that they couldn’t have ruled for four years without the support of armed forces. We feel that there is something on the Memogate issue which has made the PPP so perturbed,” an MQM legislator said, asking not to be named.
The MQM parliamentarian said that his party is not on the same page with the government because of their policy of not taking allies into confidence. However, the party was compelled to stand by the PPP due to international pressure. Citing an example, he said the prime minister did not take his party into confidence before his recent outburst on the floor of the National Assembly against the army.
“We want the continuation of democracy … we are also standing with them so that the government can complete its tenure, but we are not satisfied with their policies,” he said. It is believed that the MQM, which quit the government in June this year, rejoined later mainly due to external pressure.
An ANP leader, meanwhile, was of the view that there were two major groups within the PPP making things complicated for the party.
“A group of hawks always tries to persuade the leadership to take the establishment head on, since they believe that the military is not in a position to confront them directly. The other group, a moderate one, is of the view that the party should continue a ‘reconciliatory’ approach and not go for any confrontation. The leadership is ambivalent and in-between,” he said.
On the issue of the secret memo, the ANP leader said he believes that the PPP leadership, including the president and the prime minister, should not become a hurdle to investigations.
The MQM also complains about the PPP leadership’s preferential attitude towards the ANP – a party they say is much smaller in strength than the MQM.
PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal, whose party filed a petition against the federation in the memo case, said his party thought that the PM is a sensible leader, but is now becoming inconsistent. Iqbal said this while referring to the wavering statements from Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
The PM’s change of position on Memogate and the military certainly shows that they are nervous and trying to hide something, he added. Iqbal also said that the president is yet to deny the existence of the secret memo nor submit his reply in compliance of Supreme Court orders.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2011.