NationalVolume 12 Issue # 15

Time to party-hop again?

A large number of influential politicians have joined the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in recent weeks. With the next election due next year or could even be called early in the aftermath of a court verdict in the Panama case, the people of Pakistan think they can tell from their past experience which party is most likely to form the next government in Pakistan.

Defections and jumping political parties is a common practice in Pakistan ahead of every election. A party, which can attract the most politicians of other parties before polls, usually comes to power in Pakistan. That is the experience of election-savvy people of Pakistan. Another “barometer” is Balochistan. A party, which is selected by the international establishment with the help of the Pakistani establishment, regroups in Balochistan overnight and bags a large number of seats in the province. All elections, including in 2008 and 2013, saw the same pattern. In fact, all elections were rigged to bring favourite political parties to power to meet international demands. It may be the turn of the PPP to come to power after the PML-N has served the international establishment.

Former federal ministers Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, Khalid Ahmed Kharral, PML-N MNA from Sindh, Hakeem Baloch, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Nadir Akmal Leghari and former MNA Nabil Gabol have joined the PPP. Former Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad is also expected to join the party while former PML-N MPA Irfanullah Marwat contacted the PPP leadership, but former President Asif Zardari’s daughters jettisoned his inclusion. Asif Zardari has also contacted Aftab Sherpao, Masood Sharif and Ameer Muqam, and Sherpao and Masood are said have sent positive signals. However, Amir Muqam, who is the PML-N’s candidate for the KP chief minister’s office, is not willing to quit his party. The PPP is also making serious efforts to bring back PTI stalwart Shah Mehmood Qureshi. The Shirazi brothers, who constitute a formidable force in the political landscape of Thatta, were about to join the PPP a few months ago but the PML-N has prevented it for the time being.

Recently, former President Asif Ali Zardari and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari spent weeks in the US and met with high-ranking officials. It created an impression in Pakistan that the PPP has negotiated some deal with the superpower to come to power. After reaching Pakistan, Asif Zardari claimed his party would win the next election. People in Pakistan already have reasons to believe that the US masterminds a change of government in Pakistan, when and where required. It was not by chance that civil governments were toppled in Pakistan when the US needed military rule in the country to advance its agenda after some domestic or international crisis.

The results of the last general election were shocking for almost all political parties and observers. Some analysts claim Nawaz Sharif was set to form the government after he had allowed the PPP to complete its tenure as his party acted as a “friendly” opposition. They believe that the two parties had agreed in the Charter of Democracy to promote a two-party system and come to power alternately. However, the theory is flawed as everybody knows Pakistan is not run solely by political forces and they cannot take decisions and implement them independently. A large number of international and national players have high stakes in the strategically-located country, which they conveniently assume cannot be left at the mercy of its political parties and people. Moreover, the way the PPP and its former coalition partners, the ANP and the PML-Q, were eliminated in the last election, it could not have been a domestic “script.” In other words, the PPP could not have signed its own death warrant.

Another factor which led to the PPP humiliation was massive power cuts. Some people opine the PPP could have pumped in a few billions to reduce the circular debt and improve the power supply, even a few months before the election and people would have forgotten their miseries of the past five years. But, they say, the party knew its time was over and that was why its election campaign was lackluster, even in Punjab, where the terrorism threat was the least among all other provinces.

Even before the elections, many analysts had feared the results would be manipulated to suit US interests as it had announced leaving Afghanistan in 2014. A flurry of diplomacy and Pakistani leaders’ visits to London, Dubai, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bonn and Ankara indicated that fallouts were discussed after the US exit from Afghanistan and its implication for the future government in Pakistan. According to former Jamaat-i-Islami Ameer Munawar Hassan, the elections were massively rigged and results prepared somewhere else to bring a pro-Taliban government in Pakistan. He said he and his party had been highly critical of policies of the PPP government, but the way the PPP and the PML-Q were eliminated in the Punjab was shocking as they still had vote banks in pockets in the province despite poor performance.

The elections were massively rigged, but it is unjustified to blame an institution, an individual or even the ruling party for it. The systematic and planned rigging showed it was beyond the capacity of individuals or civilian institutions. The people of Pakistan have matured enough to predict election results even before they are held. Before every election, a large number of “electables” join the party which is chosen by “hidden hands” to succeed. The people of Pakistan understand that it was the handiwork of the “unseen forces” that have perfected the art of election rigging over the decades.The public mandate was stolen by internal and external forces in the last election. It appears the same practice will be repeated in the next polls to serve their agenda.