Politics assuming new direction
March 16, 2012
The ruling parties have secured absolute majority (70 out of 104) in the Senate after by-polls while the PPP has led the race (41). The new equations in parliament, whereby the coalition partners enjoy 2/3rd majority in both houses, are a sure indication of politics assuming a new direction. Success has come to the ruling camp on the heels of speculations about the government’s packing off without seeing victory which had become due with the Senate polls in sight.
There were times when the premier feared a coup due to memogate while the JUI-F joined chorus with the PML-N to hold elections earlier than the scheduled time. But after the Senate polls, he declared himself the most powerful premier of Pakistan. Also, he ruled out the chances of any caretaker government, something which was once termed by the media as a secret behind the passage of 20th Amendment by parliament.
Before the Senate polls, the PPP did not enjoy advantage in the Upper House as it did in the National Assembly as far as the legislative business was concerned. For every piece of legislation it had to turn to the PML-N and had to engage it. And there are evidences of failure where some allies acted sluggishly — Anti Terrorism Bill 2010 is pending with a Senate committee with which the mystery of missing persons is attached.
Despite having an advantage over the PML-N in terms of its stakes in the smaller provinces, the PPP could not have earned landmark achievements like amendments to the Constitution, right from 18th to 20th amendments, without the latter’s help. The PPP, which had been supposedly representing the interests of the marginalized federal units, if not people, not only stayed the course, but also got the most which the nationalists of the three provinces had been demanding for — the most crucial being autonomy.
The ruling parties have certainly got new confidence and are free to push for the legislation of their liking. They can even manage further amendments to the Constitution if one follows the dictates of realpolitik. That’s why the premier has been airing his ambitions loudly. Two weeks back in 0Multan he said Saraiki province was his top priority and that conspiracies such as the demand for Hazara and Bahawalpur provinces just stood in his way.
Having a leading position, the PPP is now a source of strength given the uncertainties involving the upcoming elections. The worst scenario being that the PML-N improves its strength and the coalition partners leaving it in lurch, its position in the upper house will keep it safe on the bumpy road of politics. Going from bad to satisfactory level, or even maintaining status quo on its position in parliament in next general elections, heavily depends on what the PPP yields on the foreign policy front. Good bargaining with the US on the post-drawdown situation, inflow of essentials and capital from India through free trade and some breakthrough with Russia, can effectively silence its opposition and assuage its supporters at the home front.
There are complexities, real and concrete, that may arise out of PPP itself and its coalition partners. Moving on progressive agenda is must for the survival of the party but doing so can disturb its conservative core. Sindh may not remain its solid support base as it has been in the past. The PPP has attached too many hopes with South Punjab but failing to make it a province before elections can prove damaging for it.
One is not sure whether the PPP will be able to keep intact the coalition now it leads through upcoming elections as well. The reason is that the unsettling effects of provincial autonomy will become more visible after budget and it will essentially force parties to new alignments — next half of the 2012 will reveal the ‘new politics’ in details.