Is something cooking up in the influential drawing rooms of the capital and provincial metropolis of Lahore, becoming an immediate cause of concern about the strategists of the PML-N government? The brains of premier Sharif-led dispensation have already sprung into action to estimate tentacles of the plot as they seem sure the move is positively in place and has deep roots. Ask any insider and he will tell you that the initial threat perception, time period, being estimated by Premier Sharif’s lieutenants is something like early or later part of 2014, depending on the political and law and order situation the country will be facing at that time.
The main aim of the plotters will be to compel the current government to go for mid-term polls, may be in 2015. The PTI rally of December 22 in the heart of Lahore is being taken as a test case for now. An unauthorised event it may be in the eyes of the provincial government, but listen carefully to the political outburst of Hamza Shahbaz, political heir of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, against the agitational mode of PTI, and gravity of the situation can be gauged.
A resounding success of the upcoming Lahore show can compel Khan and company to go for an early strike, mild success can delay the plans for some months and a lukewarm show in the chilling winters can, for sure, bring a sigh of relief for the ruling party. The brain behind this “not so secret move” is an amalgam of compulsory Sharif hater retired military officials, disciplined operational supporters and sympathisers of Imran Khan’s party, coupled with backers of Dr Tahirul Qadri who ‘sincerely’ feel Sharif-led PML-N won’t and can’t deliver. In fact, some of them, naively claiming support of silent but the largest section in the country, really think of themselves as the real guardians of the geographical and ideological frontiers of this land.
Qadri, as we remember from glimpses of his early 2013 Islamabad show, seems fed up with the current electoral system through which he claims undeserving and corrupt elements make it to the parliament and decision-making forums. He felt hurt and betrayed as none of his long lists of demands was accepted by the former PPP government on the actual negotiating table. And no one paid heed to his election-day boycott campaign. He may be sitting in uneasy quietness across Atlantic in the serene environs of Canada, but this dual-national political leader is bent upon brining sweeping changes in the system of governance of the country of his origin. Strange isn’t it? Dual nationals can’t hold public office and parliament seat, but can launch campaigns to change the very system of governance. Supporters still claim Qadri is preparing for the final push against forces of status quo in Pakistan – PML-N and PPP. MQM, Ch Shujaat-led PML-Q etc, according to Qadri, may still be considered catalysts of change. Isn’t it so?
Next comes Tsunami Khan. Starting from 2013 election results up to the financial and security measures of the PML-N government, his grievances are endless, except the Taliban talks’ part. Imran is angry, but the athlete in him is not exhausted. A pre-election prime minister-to-be reduced to a patron-in-chief of a provincial government. His political woes don’t end here. A close numerical margin deprived him of the coveted leader of opposition slot in the National Assembly even when he got 0.7 million more popular votes than PPP. Close confidants claim even Khan was not ready for this role, sitting next to the opposition leader, his distracters surely term rude awakening in post-election scenario. Of late, he was quick to admit his political mistake for not joining forces with Qadri’s bandwagon; openly claiming in close circles it would have been a game changer.
For now, he knows well the dream of his exemplary governance model in KPK cannot be realised till elusive peace is established across that province. His Nato supply blockade campaign seems to be fizzling out fast. So he has to be in agitation mode to win big in KPK local bodies and do well in Punjab – the political bastion of the ruling Sharifs. On their part, the ruling Sharifs want politically peaceful tenure to implement their economic vision, knowing well that any slackness could see end of their political empire built brick by brick over the last three decades. The ruling party would dearly want to contain Khan’s agitation in the confines of Parliament House , a strategy they seem to have opted for without any proper homework.
The interior minister, considered an all-purpose number three (Ishaq Dar being all-purpose number 2), may be using all kinds of warnings for ministers and backbenchers to be regular in the parliamentary proceedings; practically, the response has been lukewarm. In Tuesday’s proceedings of the Lower House of the Parliament , treasury members and ministers seem in a compulsory duty mode. Landing and leaving the House just to show their presence as the opposition and treasury were locked in a dull debate on water reservoirs.
The mention of the doomed Kalabagh Dam brought Khrurshid Shah-led opposition to a mild agitation mode, but that too was short-lived. Except a token walkout of Altaf Bhai’s comrades on the local bodies’ dispute with PPP in Sindh, the rest was business as usual, quiet, calm, lifeless. One thing the PML-N top notches need to realise for now that the Parliament should not become a usual debating club under their supervision. They need to inject life, vigour and energy into the parliamentary proceedings and make the people believe that it is, in fact, this forum, making key decisions of national life. The situation at hand demands of Sharif to set a personal example or, at least, improve his past record.
The incumbent premier safely tops list of the premiers showing least interest in participating in sessions of both the houses of the Parliament . This is what happened during November and the ongoing December session. Even when there is no hectic official schedule, Sharif is safely tucked in the Prime Minister’s House or the PM’s office – both a few blocks away from the Parliament House building. The Musharraf-Zardari decade of governance (2002-13) was a different ballgame. Those were the days of powerful presidents controlling premiers of their own choosing. Even then Yousuf Raza Gillani seemed glued to his leader of the house seat, come what may. The glorified banker-turned premier Shaukat Aziz and honourable Mir Zafarullah Jamali were regular attendants. Sharif wields the real power in the current dispensation. In September last, he got the President of his choosing to replace Zardari. Late last month, he got an army chief of his choice. This month the overly assertive chief justice retired, thus paving way for a quiet yet firm top judge. What else he could wish for?