FeaturedNationalVolume 14 Issue # 01

Fear of accountability unites opposition parties

Ten political parties have formed a “grand democratic alliance” against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) over alleged rigging in the elections. Every election in Pakistan has been tainted by allegations of rigging since 1985, but opposition parties have never put up a united front on rigging. It is said fear of accountability has forced the parties to join hands against the government to malign its success at the polls.


Corruption cases against top leaders of all political parties are in the final stages of investigation in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). In fact, most of them had been summoned by it before the election. It is a common perception in journalistic circles that most of the top leaders would be arrested by the end of the current month. PPP leader and former President Asif Ali Zardari is facing a Rs35b money laundering case in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). The Supreme Court of Pakistan has also taken notice of it. It is believed he and his sister, Faryal Talpur, will be arrested soon. Former Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is also facing several corruption cases. The Minhajul Quran case, in which the police had killed 14 people and injured over 100 in 2014, is in the final stages in an accountability court and the Lahore High Court (LHC). It is said many police officers are also willing to become approvers against him in the case. His close aide and former Lahore Development Authority (LDA) DG Ahad Cheema and former Principal Secretary to ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Fawad Hassan Fawad, have turned approver. His son, Hamza Shahbaz, has already appeared before the NAB in the Saaf Pani corruption case. Sources say they could be arrested in weeks.


Former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is also in trouble in the Paragon City corruption case against former Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother and former Punjab Health Minister Khawaja Salman Rafique. It is alleged that Saad Rafique had built Yusuf Raza Gilani an 8-kanal house in Paragon City, in return for the provision of gas, electricity and roads to his housing society at the cost of taxpayers’ money, when he was the prime minister of Pakistan in the last PPP government. Former President Asif Ali Zardari had realised the gravity of the situation even before the election and held a meeting with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the residence of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Najam Sethi after months of backdoor contacts between them. Nawaz Sharif has already been arrested. Their parties wasted no time in joining hands after elections as their leaders feared they would be arrested in corruption cases. Under a strategy, they will put pressure on the government not to pursue cases against them and portray them as political victimization. However, people are not willing to accept their viewpoint because they understand that the PTI government has not instituted the cases against them.


The two mainstream parties also convinced their smaller allies to join them. They have included the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of five religious parties, Awami National Party (ANP), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) in the grand democratic alliance. The MMA consists of Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Jamaat-i- Islami (JI), Jamiat Ahle Hadith (JAH) and Tehreek-i-Islami (TI). In a bid to make it look attractive, they named it the “Alliance for free and fair elections” and announced playing an Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD)-like role in parliament. It was after the 2002 elections that the PPP and the PML-N had forged an anti-government alliance, the ARD, under Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan. The MMA was another opposition alliance in the parliament at the time. The members of the ARD and MMA had given a tough time to the military government of President General Pervez Musharraf, who picked Zafarullah Jamali as his prime minister. Over 100 members of the two alliances made the parliament non-functional for almost one year through noisy protests against the Legal Framework Order of the military regime, forcing the government to hold talks with the opposition.


The broad-based understanding on cooperation was reached during the first direct meeting between leaders of the PML-N and the PPP after the July 25 election. Maulana Fazul Rehman was more furious than other leaders after his defeat on two National Assembly seats. He suggested the opposition parties use all possible means to prevent the PTI from forming the government. He also proposed a complete boycott of the parliament and urged legislators-elect of all opposition parties not to take oath of their offices. However, the PPP rejected the proposal because of its bitter experience in the 1985 polls, when it did not take part in it and the late General Ziaul Haq had set up his own party, first in the name of Pakistan Muslim League-Junejo and then Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which proved a hard nut to crack.


It is said leaders of the PML-N, PPP and ANP had conveyed to MMA chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman that the opposition parties were unanimous against boycotting the parliament and provincial assemblies. Maulana Fazl also was also isolated in his own religious alliance on the matter after Jamaat-i-Islami, which is part of the MMA, decided that its lawmakers-elect would take oath in the National Assembly and provincial assemblies. The MMA had to change its stance and it decided to be part of the legislative houses.


According to analysts, the PTI has almost eliminated all parties in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after reforms in all sectors. Besides arrests in corruption cases, leaders of the opposition parties fear they will have to face the same fate if the PTI completed its term at the Centre and the Punjab. They will attempt to upset the PTI government with protests and make an all-out effort not to allow it to act upon its agenda of change, which ensured its success in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.