Politics of Reconciliation: Can Nawaz get out of trap?
May 27, 2011
The PML-N is striving hard to capture the ground PPP is leaving in Sindh because of its alliance with the ruling parties of Musharraf period, the PML-Q and MQM. It is trying to woo the Sindhi nationalists to balance the PPP’s move to either steal Punjab away from Sharifs’ hands, or to limit it only to the central parts of the province.
While neither the country nor the PML-N can afford killing the spirit of democracy, some drastic changes to the party’s agenda can effectively improve its position. Instead of getting involved in reactionary politics on the question of dividing Punjab, Nawaz Sharif may concentrate on ‘devolution of power’ to the various ignored regions of the country
The problem with the beleaguered PML-N is that it has to confront an accidently found statesman in the person of Asif Ali Zardari — note the way he has scaled up the ladder of power within almost no time after the assassination of his spouse in Rawalpindi. He took charge to make the PPP ride on the sympathy wave that swept Sindh, Southern Punjab and some parts of the then NWFP.
Asif, though not in political limelight during the times when Ms. Bhutto was alive, brought forth unbelievable skills to take on board odd allies. Actually, he knows the art to please everyone that matters in politics. He made promises to secure favors from every party and was able to fulfill the same sooner or later. While many were predicting revival of old rivalry between the PPP and the N-League, Asif stuck to single-liner formula: he would destabilize PML-N government in Punjab. True to his words, Punjab is still in the hands of Sharifs despite their open and secret opposition to the PPP.
None has known exactly what would be the next move of Asif Ali Zardari. It was simply shocking for the PML-N and other likeminded forces which dread the days when the PPP would become master of Punjab, again. Before he came up with the plan to enter into the presidency, he promised ANP the renaming of the NWFP, shared power with the MQM and various small parties of Baluchistan.
While President Asif Ali Zardari, who is also the co-chairman of the PPP, gave a commitment not to dislodge Sharifs in Punjab, he is able to secure the support of this province on provincial autonomy and War on Terror. Though Sharifs did it as per the spirit of the time, the whole credit is owed by none by Asif and his party.
PML-N’s real problem is Punjab:
Despite all the sacrifices which the Punjab has rendered in the name of promoting harmony of interest among provinces, the largest province is still subject of hatred in Sindh and Balochistan. There seems to be a consensus between the intelligentsia and the politicians of the two smaller provinces to cut Punjab into size as a means to secure their presumed rights.
Punjab represents a legacy of imperialism which started during the Khalsa regime, consolidated later by the British and retained by the various rulers of the new state, Pakistan, to serve their sectional interests. The province became subject of hatred during Zia era which brutally suppressed democratic voices in smaller provinces.
If PML-N sticks to Punjab, it has also to own its anti-democratic legacies as well. The party has to revise its agenda and lay down a plan to not only get rid of the colonial legacies, not only in the case of Punjab, but also the whole country.
Getting out of trap:
Asif’s politics of reconciliation has left, actually, little number of political parties which the PML-N can woo to dispel the impression that it is just a G.T road party and has no standing outside the Punjab province. Even the southern belt of the province is not with the PML-N where the PML-Q and PPP have made good show in last elections and are busy in selling the idea of Punjab’s division. The PML-N has lost Hazara Division due to its support of changing the nomenclature of the NWFP on the demand of ANP.
Nawaz Sharif can aspire for developing strong stakes in Southern Punjab and Sindh besides consolidating his party’s position in Central and Northern Punjab and Hazara. But going by the kind of politics his party is involved in, it is difficult to skip the checkmate which the PPP and its nationalist allies have planned for it.
While neither the country nor the PML-N can afford killing the spirit of democracy, some drastic changes to the party’s agenda can effectively improve its position. Instead of getting involved in reactionary politics on the question of dividing Punjab, Nawaz Sharif may concentrate on ‘devolution of power’ to the various ignored regions of the country.
To become a national-level party, the PML-N may concentrate on what has become a strong hurdle in its way. The PPP will try to maintain the status quo for some time to enjoy the slow death of its competitor. To win back its lost position, the PML-N has to think beyond Punjab.
The tactics like winning over Sindhi nationalists, which Nawaz Sharif recently played, will not work. Sindh is lost to its contradictions and may be left best on its own. He can’t hope much from Asfandyar Wali as well — this Pathan is deep in love with Zardari.
Nawaz Sharif has come out in the open against Seraiki province, but has not yet spoken his mind as to how he is going to counter the campaign for the division of Punjab. Not of course by the fiery speeches he is making now days against, what he calls, the corrupt rulers. The mantra that people need basic necessities of life not provinces has lost its worth.
His deputies have recently tried to lure the MPs of Bahawalpur by offering support for the provincial status of their region in exchange of their joining the PML-N. Instead of making such overtures, why this party can’t come up with the slogan of small provinces for the better management of Pakistan? The logic applied to 7th NFC Award can also provide the PML-N a way out.