LAHORE  -   Pakistan’s political history is set to repeat itself after some three decades. The only difference is that the roles of political parties have now changed.

Let’s see what is happening at present.

The PTI government is determined to proceed against Asif Ali Zardari and some other PPP leaders on corruption charges.

A Joint Investigation Team looked into the financial matters of various leaders and presented a comprehensive report to the Supreme Court. In the light of the JIT recommendations the government put names of 172 people on the exit control list (ECL), because of which these people were disallowed to leave the country.

The apex court went through the report and ordered the government to remove the names of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from the list.

The federal cabinet took up the matter but did not remove the names of the said leaders from the ECL on the plea that a decision would be taken only after the apex court issued a written order.

The PPP and PTI leaders are levelling serious allegations against each other, because of which political temperature is going up.

Mr Bilawal at a public meeting in Sindh on Saturday threatened to go for a march on Islamabad.

Alleging that people of Sindh are being punished for supporting the PPP in the general election, he said if the PPP went ahead with its march on Islamabad, the PTI would lose power.

Only a day before, an important Sindh minister – Saeed Ghani – threatened that the provincial government may disallow some PTI ministers’ entry into the PPP-ruled province.

He said as the federal government has the authority to place names of suspects on the Exit Control List (ECL), the provincial government also has powers to ban ministers’ entry in Sindh.

About two weeks ago, senior PPP leader Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmud (who is a former Punjab governor) had said in Lahore the Sindh chief minister may stop receiving the prime minister when he visits the province.

The PTI government, he said, initiated an unnecessary controversy by placing on ECL the names of Murad Ali Shah and Bilawal. The treatment meted out to the CM of a smaller federating unit is dangerous for the federation itself, said Mr Makhdoom.

To further highlight the seriousness of the situation, the Makhdoom said: “Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are already alienated from the centre and now PTI’s follies may distance the Sindh province too,”

Now, let’s go back to 1988-90 period when Benazir Bhutto was the prime minister and Nawaz Sharif was the Punjab chief minister for a second time.

Tension between the two governments was at the peak. Whenever the prime minister planned a visit to Lahore, the chief minister invariably proceeded on a visit to some other city – because of which she was received by somebody else, not the province’s chief executive.

And the day the CM received the premier, it was the biggest news of the day.

Eligibility of a woman to lead the country was frequently questioned by PML leaders and their supporters.

It was during that period that the idea of Punjab having its own airline (parallel to PIA), television channel, radio and bank was floated by the provincial government. It was argued that there would be nothing unconstitutional if a province had these institutions of its own.

Husain Haqqani was among the advisers of Mian Nawaz Sharif and he played an important role in intensifying the confrontation.

Once Gen (retd) Tikka Khan, then governor appointed by the federal government, called for a report on some subject. He was told by Mr Haqqani that it was beyond the governor’s jurisdiction to ask for the said report.

Sheikh Rashid, who was among the people very close to Mian Nawaz Sharif at the time, had advised the chief minister: “Mian Shaib Tun Kay Rakhu” (give her a tough time) – a decent translation of a provocative Punjabi expression.

As for the PPP leaders’ threat that entry of federal ministers would be banned in Sindh, the idea is not new one.

During the 1988-90 tenure, this was applied to PPP’s federal minister Malik Mukhtar Awan.

He was wanted in a case, because of which the police were after him. He ran his ministry from Karachi, as entry in Lahore or any other city of Punjab would mean his arrest.

From Karachi Awan used to fly into the federal capital and the practice continued till the PPP remained in power.

This all means that what is happening at the national scene at present is not new. It happened even in the past. The only difference is that what the PML government was doing to the PPP government then is being repeated by the PPP for the PTI. The PTI replaces the PPP and the PPP has assumed the role of the then PML.

(The PML was then led by Muhammad Khan Junejo, and the PML-N was launched during Nawaz Sharif’s first term as prime minister).