Both dominant political entities, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and Pakistan People’s party (Bhutto) have been cut down to size. PPP was formed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1967 at Lahore to challenge the establishment strangle hold while PML(N) came into existence in the eighties to neutralize the influence of Bhutto’s party. ZAB declared Lahore to be the Leningrad (St. Petersburg) of Pakistan. He wished to be buried here but instead Zia stealthily dispatched his body to Larkana his hometown. Nawaz was then facilitated to create “Takht-e-Lahore’ which has since grown into a political monster.
ZAB believed in People’s power while Nawaz relied on the administrative machinery to win elections by manipulating the ballot. While PML(N)’s influence increased, PPP’s popularity waned in the metropolis. Finally, Zardari’s misrule (2008 – 2013) proved to be the final nail in the coffin of Bhutto’s party. Nawaz’s third stint in power (2013 - 2018) proved to be equally disastrous. Zia’s political circus is coming to an end after consuming over forty years of nation building (1977 to 2017). Today PML has been reduced to a Lahore political outfit while PPP’s influence is confined to Larkana where the Bhuttos are buried, hence a name change is in order; instead of PML(N) the party should be named PML(Lahore) while PPP(Bhutto) should be called PPP(Larkana) both having the same affix representing their reduced area of influence. The two can even be merged, the unified political mix can operate under the banner of corruption with the title of People’s Muslim League (L), ‘L’ being common for both (Lahore, Larkana). Both parties have started talking about the need for another ‘Charter of Democracy’ (COD) to prolong the era of loot and plunder which is now coming to an end. According to indicators Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) together with independents and smaller parties will form the next government while the corrupt will bite the dust at the ballot box.
Lahore is the last battle ground for PML(N) where the fight is close with PTI otherwise it seems the party is over. ‘Takht-e-Lahore’ is no longer in a position to rule over Pakistan. Their goose is cooked, as the task of bringing down PPP has been achieved and their utility has diminished. Bilawal is trying hard to revive his grandfather’s party but he carries the Zardari burden which does not sell. The Lahore and Larkana boys can now play ball only in their home grounds.
At best if PML(N) and PPP(L) come together they can only extend their political demise by combined opposition to change. The first COD signed in London by Nawaz and Benazir did not produce the desired results for the nation but did expose all the players. While Kaptaan exposed corruption and brought down the government of Nawaz, the Ex-PM challenged the role of non-democratic forces by invoking Article-6 of the constitution against the last dictator who then had to flee to save his skin. By coming back to face the courts, Nawaz has demonstrated courage but it is mainly to pass on the political mantle to his daughter Mariam.
The sentiments on the streets of Lahore are mixed. Die-hard supporters of PML(N) still believe that despite his corruption Nawaz is the best option for the country. There is lack of clarity about his conviction. He has been convicted under the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance, in the event of assets beyond means the onus of proof lies with the accused not the prosecution. It is almost impossible to control white collar crime through common law as such the NAB laws were promulgated. Both PML(N) and PPP did not feel the need to amend the ordinance, instead the focus was to appoint favourites in the bureau to get away with corruption.
Panama leaks proved to be the proverbial bolt from the blue. The die-hard rogues within the party thought that time would be able to minimize the impact but Kaptaan proved to be a tenuous fighter. PPP sought parliamentary intervention to resolve the crisis but PML(N) miscalculated its chances. Almost all elected leaders world wide, whose names were revealed by the leaks resigned and went home. Mian Sahib decided on a legal battle in which he was not able to prevail for the first time in his life.
It is indeed interesting to hear some of the PML(N) heavy weights regarding political cleansing. They now say that all the four Khaki dictators took over the reigns of the government under the pretext of a cleanup but failed, they do not realize that they themselves are a product of this botched operation. Creating political rogues through unnatural political outfits like PML(N), PML(Q), PML(C), MQM, MMA, does not lead to cleansing. An honest ballot leads to the most effective accountability. Most political players in the arena today emerged through manipulated elections with PML(N) being one of the dominant force in the last three decades. Both corruption and the corrupt are now on their way out. By jumping parties, they cannot prolong their political future. Neither the ‘Bat’ nor the ‘Lion’ or the ‘Arrow’ can provide cover to the corrupt. In a free and fair election, they will face extinction as they did in 1946 and 1970. Elections are only a few days away, ‘Naya Pakistan’ with clean players elected through a credible ballot is the only way forward. The menace of corruption is being targeted together with the parties and individuals involved in it, the upright and honest political players need not worry.
The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation.