The Pakistan People’s Party was completely overrun by the PTI and PML(N) in the 2013 elections in the Punjab province – where it genuinely matters, where the real battle for the federation takes place and where any political party with even a minute, superficial semblance of a liberal outlook on normative political ends has remained futile in making a mark ever since ill-fated Zia Ul-Haq’s civil-military bureaucracy led partyless elections in 1985.

This was when “patwari and thana” culture was institutionalized on the basis of personal loyalty to the reigning establishment by Zia and his cronies. This was when Assistant Commissioners and ASPs were appointed at the Tehsil level after undertaking an informal commitment that there was no one to take care of them on earth except the Almighty, and “YOU, Sir!” Rather than training themselves in the genuine struggle for political power through the parliamentary process, parliamentarians were, practically speaking, brought down to the level of local government councillors by being offered mega funds, which were then used to fix drainage and sewage systems, build and maintain roads (hint, hint), create farm-to-market roads and construct pedestrian bridges over nullahs, amongst other endeavors. This was the birth of modern contemporary corruption as we know it in the power structures of the Punjab. Modern practices present a relatively upscale, tech-savvy nature of similar methods of governance being employed by the Chief Minister and his hand-picked civil servants and mates et al.

One of the prominent members of Zia’s Punjabi ruling establishment was Mr. Javed Hashmi: the self-declared “Baghi” i.e rebel of the 2000s. Now this is a rather complex “baaghi.” Under the aegis of a leading religious party’s youth wing, the Baaghi once led a “Bangladesh Na-manzoor” (Bangladesh’s independent status is unacceptable) movement in 1972, isolating the state in the international sphere as Pakistan was compelled to feed the misguided and inhumane sentiments of the movement and sever her diplomatic ties, embarrassing close friends while denting Pakistan’s relatively independent foreign policy. While he seems to have learned his lessons to an extent, the “Baaghi” then joined hands with Asghar Khan’s Tehrik-i-Istiqlal, an establishment crony political entity in the idealist-reformist mould, somewhat close to a PTI of the modern age in terms of ideological leanings, which formed a major part of the infamous PNA movement of 1977. It took the “Baaghi” a considerable amount of time to understand that while one supposed “savior” served the country by flying fighter aircraft, the other believed he ‘single-handedly’ won the 1992 cricket world cup (poor old Wasim Akram). Both, however, were utter novices when it came to the management of the complexities of modern politics which require a completely different set of skills! Then came a stint with Junejo’s Muslim League, followed by another “Baghawat” directly landing into Pakistan Muslim League (N). Since the state- sponsored PML (N) was a natural consequence of Zia’s meddling with the constitutional and political process, the “Baaghi” found a safe haven for a large period of time, repeatedly winning his Multan seat as well as enjoying ministerial portfolios!

There is no denying the fact that the modern formation of the PML (N) ranks was compelled to stand up against Musharraf’s coup in 1999 and an element of political struggle in adversity was attached with the party legacy for the first time since independence. A small group, fore fronted by Javed Hashmi, did resist the authoritarian regime on the floor of the House, as well as outside (where it really mattered in those days). He resisted temptations to again join hands with the establishment, served a jail sentence which had the strong stench of political victimization attached to it, and vouched for civilian supremacy in parliamentary matters. While the PTI supporters might completely abhor his stances against Imran’s gung-ho style of politics vowing for impractical propositions such as a technocratic government and marching into the Red Zone to delegitimize the sanctity of national institutions and symbols via ill-fated fascist tendencies, Mr. Hashmi seems to have learnt his lessons well. His latest speech to the joint-session of parliament was a moment in history.

But how? And what now, for Mr. Hashmi? Cornered in the PTI; more foes than buddies in the PML (N); his new-found ‘liberal’ disposition completely unsuitable for religious parties; his opposition to TUQ’s shady stances against the civilian-led constitutional process make a union unlikely; so what might seem absurd on first glance, might be a blessing in disguise. It is the Pakistan People’s Party that seems like a match made in heaven right now. Reeling from the embarrassment in the elections and a disenchantment of workers in the Punjab with the pragmatism of Manzoor Wattoo and the likes, the PPP can benefit massively by incorporating Javed Hashmi into the fray! Imran’s political supporters have slowly begun to follow the parliamentary sessions and are beginning to understand, albeit superficially, the nuances of politics in Pakistan. The PPP should cash in while the PML (N) remain uncompromising and staunchly egoistic. PPP’s policy of the hawkish provincial line whilst maintaining the co-operative Federal line requires a charismatic figure, relevant in the circumstances. 

While the Punjabi masses appear to understand the impractical nature of Imran’s self-centered, upper class disposition and the PML (N) looks increasingly fractured and shows little promise due to incumbency, the PPP has to make a move, and make it fast. Hashmi can effectively counter the disgruntled local-level baggage in southern Punjab and infuse a new found spirit in PPP ranks. Although this analysis might be speculative, and events have a rather ironic way of changing policies and initial promises, the Hashmi-PPP match is potentially lethal!

The establishment has now fathomed the inherent dangers attached to supporting Imran due to his aggressive and unflinching stances. Perhaps Hashmi’s name is being forwarded as a future leader of the house? The scripts remain problematic to gauge. The turf wars continue.

The writer is political analyst and a musician.

@irtiza_shafaat