An unlikely coalition is forming; a newly minted faction of Karachi based party; a party led and sustained by a cleric who resides abroad for the vast majority of the time; several smaller political splinters that have hung around the political process for years; and the two big fish – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan People’ Party (PPP) – both of whom are at each other’s throats in every political gathering.
The purpose of this political Frankenstein’s monster is to put pressure on Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz’s (PML-N) and try to take down its provincial leadership for their role in the Model Town incident; namely Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. While political machinations, unlikely bedfellows and horse-trading are the norm before any general election, the means chosen by the parties involved, especially the national ones, are both disappointing and troubling.
The formula has been established and this new coalition seems intent to follow it to the tee; make stringent demands, and siege the capital until the destabilisation forces the government to comply. We saw this strategy work in the Faizabad protests, where a handful of clerics held the government hostage, now the combined might of several national parties is preparing to repeat that terrible spectacle on a larger scale.
It might meet the political goals of the parties in the coalition, but this move is emblematic of the worst sort of opportunism. All solemnly sworn principles and policy positions seem to have been set aside by each party. Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), which barely has a foothold in Karachi, has traveled to the Punjabi capital to take lead in an issue that took place before it was formed. PPP, the great defender of democracy and liberal values, is bedfellows with parties upholding and promoting right-wing ideals – all to eke out some space in a province it had surrendered due to its own incompetence.
Worst of all; these steps are a tacit approval of the means used by the Faizabad protestors – and their message too – by these national mainstream parties. By aligning itself parallel to the Tehreek-e-Labbaik clerics, parties who are supposed to be the bulwark against such radical forces are encouraging them further.
This sort of principle-less opportunism was expected from the PTI, which has already besieged the capital once and made allies with hardline clerics, but coming from the PPP it is especially disappointing. The tolerant and principled legacy of Zulfiqar and Benazir Bhutto seems to be forgotten by the wayside.