EDITORIAL: Normally, it is after the elections that leaders of major political parties visit the Karachi headquarters of the MQM ((Muttahida Qaumi Movement) to elicit support, but little is predictable or surprising in our present-day political scenario.
A three-member MQM delegation called on the Sharif brothers in Lahore on Thursday, followed by an announcement that its party and the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) had decided to contest the upcoming general elections as an alliance.
That could deliver a fatal blow to the proposed alliance considering that the MQM generally evokes a negative opinion in Punjab for its past involvement in violence, and those in Sindh have serious reservations about the other party.
People in urban as well as rural Sindh note with considerable resentment that during its previous stints in power the PML-N focused all its attention on its home base of Punjab pointing out, for instance, that the Orange Train project, a part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, was initially meant for Karachi but its current President Shehbaz Sharif, then chief minister of that province, managed to shift to it to Lahore.
Whether it was an afterthought or some other consideration, the same evening the MQM explained that the two parties do not have an electoral alliance, but would make seat adjustments where required and form a post-election alliance.
The MQM has been partnering with whichever party ruled at the centre, but why do that at this juncture. One also wonders what makes it so sure the League is to lead the next government. One of its leaders, Mustafa Kamal, seemed to know something when participating a couple of days earlier in a TV talks show he said that it looked like no one was going to get absolute majority in the general elections, and a winning party in Punjab would have to make alliances with other parties.
Various public opinion surveys, however, show the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) can win elections hands down. The coming together of the two parties seems to be a marriage of convenience, ostensibly arranged by those in the business of political engineering.
The plan, apparently, is to have some electables contest seats on the League ticket from urban Sindh, and ditto for Balochistan so it can ‘win’ enough seats to emerge as the single largest party but short of having a majority, needing help, aside from the MQM, some smaller entities, such as the newly crafted Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) into which have been inducted several PTI deserters.
Meanwhile, the GDA (Grand Democratic Alliance) and the JUI-F (Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl), say reports, are getting closer and contemplating forging a coalition with Nawaz League. It may form a minority government like the PTI’s and find itself in a similar position where the rug can be pulled from under it, if and when desired.
Such games can only prolong political uncertainty with serious repercussions for an already struggling economy. Anything is within the realm of possibilities in politics, however. The PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) was a coalition partner in the recently-ended PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) coalition government led by Shehbaz Sharif, its leader Asif Ali Zardari has now said his party would field its candidates against its ‘opponents’.
A few days earlier, his son and party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had averred that this time the prime minister of the country will not be from Lahore. Not too long before that he had hinted at forming an alliance with the PTI, adding though that if it is not found involved in the May 9 events.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan is likely to stay behind bars for the foreseeable future, and the same goes for its second tier leaders and activists.
Although Khan has all along been refusing to have any conversation with PPP and PML-N leaders whom he called ‘thieves’, yet he may allow whatever is left of his party to make unannounced seat adjustments with the PPP in urban Sindh as well as in Balochistan.
That may or may not happen, but the stakes are too high for the political class, more so for the people of this country who only have the right to choose who should represent them in government.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023