The more Imran Khan gains, the more it becomes difficult to predict the outcome of the May 11 polls. The more Nawaz Sharif loses to Imran, which presumably, he is, the more it appears likely that we would end up with a hung parliament. Imran seems to be succeeding in preventing Nawaz from sweeping the 2013 polls, while the PML-N is being seen to be successfully blocking the PTI tsunami from inundating the next parliament. And the more a hung parliament appears to be in offing, the more it seems likely that we would have a PML-PPP coalition government at the centre and in Punjab, as the PPP still has the ability to muster the third-largest number of seats in both the National Assembly and in Punjab, if not the second-largest, if one went by the claim of some pundits that with the right-of-centre votes divided among the PML-N, PTI, Jamaat-e-Islami, PML-Q and right-leaning independents, the PPP stood to grab more seats than is being predicted.
Why not a PML-N and PTI coalition? Imran himself, perhaps, would be the main obstacle in the way of such a coalition. He seems to be driven by some kind of ideology, which perhaps, he himself would find impossible to define, except labeling it with a vague catchphrase like Naya Pakistan but which I believe would make it almost impossible for him to join hands with either the PML-N or the PPP to form a government. Imran’s biggest achievement in this election has been his success with the youth bulge. He has mobilised a vast number of apolitical youth of Pakistan as never before. But if he joins the government as a junior partner at this juncture making visible compromises, he would perhaps, stand to lose the support of this expanding bulge. But if he opts to sit in the opposition with his formidable numbers, he would not only be able to give the government a run for its money but would also succeed, hopefully, in keeping the support of the youth intact until the next election, by which time he would also have generated a vote bank for himself.
There is another dimension to the issue of the PML-N and the PTI coming together. Both have tried to outdo each other in their anti-American sloganeering. They would have to live up to it when in a coalition government. Imran has already said that he would order the Air Force to shoot down the drones. Both have spoken of shattering the shackles of the US dole. The establishment, which is at the moment in negotiations with the US on such issues like talks with the Afghan Taliban, the Nato withdrawal process and the post-withdrawal regional scenario, would surely find these slogans very helpful in getting the best deal (according to the establishment’s perspective) from these negotiations. But the question is, how would Pakistan cope with a hostile India across the Line of Control and a not-very-friendly Afghanistan across the Durand Line (which Kabul continues to refuse to recognise) without a single friend in the world, not even in the Muslim Middle East, which lately has forged closer links with India and with the one we all so bank upon, Saudi Arabia, firmly in the lap of the US?
Whatever the outcome of the polls, Pakistan would continue to be part of an increasingly interdependent world. And it would continue to need friends to help it overcome the vast political, social and economic problems it is facing on a number of fronts domestically, regionally and globally.
Tailpiece: First, they came for the non-Muslims, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a non-Muslim; then they came for the “seculars”, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a “secular”; then they came for the liberals, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a liberal; then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.
I don’t need to repeat the original quote here because I know most of the readers of this column know whose quote I have liberally paraphrased and to whom it is addressed and why.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2013.