What promises to be a new day for the members of the newly registered PTI-N will be just another day in the history of Pakistani politics, where a prominent party’s name is taken on by a few old members looking to set up their own shop. The formation of another PTI reflects a very common trend in domestic politics; to ride the wave of an old established name in an effort to gain or retain political relevance. This trend can be seen throughout Pakistani history, and indeed, judging by certain factions of various parties, it has worked too, on occasion.
For after all, the current ruling party was made from the bones of PML (Convention).
The increasing number of factions in the domestic sphere does in no way imply that the electorate has more choice in terms of choosing their representatives. If we are to dissect each party’s ideology according to the traditional methods of categorisation used for partisan politics, even a detailed study of political manifestos in the country will be unable to shed light on how each party differs from the other. All seemingly want justice, an end to corruption and improving the lot of the common people. Opposition leaders love to call out the ruling party for its policy failures, and yet they tend to make the same mistakes during their stint in power. There are slight differences of course, such as one openly looking to protect and nourish large scale businessmen and industrialists, while the other does so secretly. But for the most part, voting for one over the other only promises a change of face, not policy.
Apart from a select few such as the Awami Workers Party, which have little or no relevance in the electoral process, all are economically and socially conservative, looking to keep the status quo in place for the most part. A significant portion of the electorate is left without anyone to represent their views. And since a large part of the country’s foreign policy is ‘steered’ in the direction of its choosing by the establishment, the party in power also has very limited say in relationships formed across its borders. The Nawaz government should seriously be commended for its efforts however, even if they were not entirely reciprocated by India. More needs to be done on the western border if Iran’s value as a neighbour is to be fully realised in the near future.
In another unexpected development, MQM saw its old hero, Mustafa Kamal return to Karachi with a bang, but this time the ex-mayor of Karachi seemingly has his old party in his crosshairs. The Urdu speaking community of Karachi will soon have another party to look out for its best interests, and this might be welcomed by many who grow tired of Altaf Hussain’s shambolic attempts at trying to control MQM through a telephonic line. However, Mustafa Kamal’s accusations bring nothing new to the table; a rocket scientist isn’t needed to attribute Altaf Hussain’s consistent slurring while addressing his supporters to alcohol, nor is the RAW allegation something unheard of. What’s new is that through announcing his return, Mustafa Kamal has implicated himself and all other MQM leaders of idly standing by and letting all of this happen. If what Kamal says is true, then he has some explaining to do as well.
Altaf is not the only leader in Pakistan to have built a party around his cult of personality. All parties must have a demagogue in Pakistan. A ‘visionary’ leader who must look after all affairs, from policy-making to taking important decisions such as the leadership structure and his/her closest confidantes. But of course, there can only be one to take this throne, and all others must either fall in line, or find a new castle to assume lordship over. Altaf Hussain, Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan and Asif Ali Zardari are all essentially made of the same mould because when it really comes down to it, the parties they lead cannot function without them managing affairs at the helm. Pakistan’s electorate votes for the politicians but not for their politics. That always comes secondary.