The woes of the Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDM) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) continue to multiply. After hibernating for about six months, the PDM has again become active but this time the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is not on board. The PML-N is the major partner in the alliance but it is plagued with serious internal rifts with Shehbaz Sharif and Mariam Nawaz pulling in opposite directions.
As announced, Phase 2 of the movement will culminate in a march on Islamabad whose goal would be to ensure free and fair elections in the country. Last time, the target was to bring down the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government but the attempt failed after a series of public meetings could not muster enough popular support for it.
As has been rightly observed by various political analysts, the PDM was destined to fail as it was an unnatural alliance of disparate political elements, opportunists and adventurers, each one of them pursuing their separate agendas from its platform.
As predicted, very soon the component parties pulled in the opposite direction, indicating the demise of the alliance. When Yusuf Raza Gilani became the leader of the opposition in the Senate with the support of ANP and BAP senators, the PML-N said that it had been deprived of its right.
The incident sealed the parting of the ways between the PPP and the PDM. The issuance of show-cause notices to the PPP and the ANP was the last nail in the coffin of the troubled alliance. The PPP formally said goodbye to the PDM, with the two sides charging each other of breach of trust. There were serious differences of opinion between the PPP and the PML-N over mass resignations as well as throwing an open challenge to the establishment.
There is a consensus of opinion among political observers that like the first round of agitation, the PDM’s second round will also fail to mobilise the public. The PDM bitterly attacks the government and wants it to go, but it has not presented any alternative plan of action to rescue the economy which it says has been destroyed by the PTI government.
Moreover, all big names in the PML-N are accused of mega corruption, benami bank transactions and money laundering on a large scale. They are all facing court cases, so the general perception is that the PDM is being used by them as a Trojan Horse to save their skin.
The ongoing power tussle between factions of Shehzab Sharif and Maryam Nawaz in the PML-N has added to the woes of the party. The party is torn between two diametrically opposed narratives. While PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif stands for reconciliation and having a dialogue with the establishment, Nawaz Sharif in London is not ready to moderate his rigid stance and scale down his shrill narrative vis a vis the state institutions.
In his media talk in Karachi recently, Shehbaz stated that the solution to the national issues, ranging from foreign policy to the economy, lies in a consensus national government. But the following day, the PML-N issued a clarification, saying Shehbaz spoke in his personal capacity regarding his idea of a national government. Reacting sharply, Shehbaz Sharif, through his spokesperson, reiterated his stand and added that it was not the first time that he had given such a proposal.
The acerbic exchanges between the Shehbaz Sharif faction and the sharp-tongued spokespersons of Maryam Nawaz in recent weeks indicate that the PML-N leadership is at a loss to decide over how to tackle the challenges it faces in the current political situation.
It appears that as long as Maryam Nawaz continues to speak, the efforts by Shehbaz Sharif to present the PML-N as a party of moderation and play the role of a peacemaker will come to naught. It is not the game of playing good cop and bad cop. It is a clash between two world views – accommodation vs confrontation or peacemaking vs aggressive party politicking. In the given circumstances, the PML-N becomes more irrelevant in national politics as the time passes.
The PDM’s negative politics has so far not yielded any dividends. If anything, its strategy has only muddied the political waters and created hurdles to the smooth working of the present political dispensation. It is time it changed its tactics and concentrated more on working within the system to create space for itself. Instead of abortively trying to pull down the government, it should engage with the government for electoral and systemic reforms which are the crying need of the hour. Unfortunately, it has rebuffed all offers from the government to sit down and discuss governance and other issues. This is not the route to political rehabilitation that the PML-N, the PPP and other PDM component parties are seeking.
On the issue of electronic voting machines the opposition parties have unnecessarily taken a stand that defies all logic and good sense. If they want free, fair and transparent elections, they must sit down with the government to discuss their reservations in order to plug the loopholes in the current system. Trying to topple the government through strong-arm tactics and street agitation is against the rules of the democratic game.