A year of political upheavals

In the labyrinth of Pakistan’s dirty politics, the year 2017 was the most happening year which saw the political lines clearly drawn ahead of the upcoming elections.

The power brokers remained active all the year to reorder the pawns on the political chessboard, leaving the ruling PML-N at the receiving end of their political engineering. 

Starting with the disqualification of Mian Nawaz Sharif, the ensuing political upheavals also created a political space for the PPP enabling it to take the centre stage especially on the issue of electoral delimitations. In the last quarter of the 2017, the PPP became relevant to the political dispensation all of a sudden both inside and outside the parliament.

Before the passage of the delimitations bill with PPP’s support, the fate of upcoming general elections hanged in the balance. It gave rise to speculations that elections may be delayed for a year or so. There was also talk of a national government which might continue for three years.

It remains a fact that had the PPP Senators not voted in favour of the bill, holding of the general elections as per schedule was not possible.  

Apart from the issue of delimitations, people also saw the once most powerful party, the PML-N, virtually begging for help from the PPP but only to find the doors of reconciliation closed on it. After the disqualification episode, Nawaz party needed political support from the PPP to make a joint front against the non-political forces which it thought were behind the conspiracy to oust its prime minister. 

Its leaders made futile attempts at wooing the “Man of reconciliation”, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, but the man was unresponsive this time as a matter of expedience.

Senior PML-N leader Kh Muhammad Asif’s statement admitting his failure to arrange a meeting between Mian Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari is now part of our political history. For the PML-N leadership, it was something against its expectations. This was so because in the past the PPP would always offer its shoulder to the Sharifs in time of need.

On the issue of PPP’ revival in Punjab, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari succeeded to some extent in reviving the dying spirit among the jiayals who had gone into deep slumber after the assassination of their leader Benazir Bhutto.

But for the ultimate success of the party in this province, a lot depends on the follow up actions the party chairman takes in the days to come.   

It may well be called an irony of fate but it is true that political developments taking place in 2017 brought some big political victories for the PTI even to the extent of leaving it virtually with no political issues to fuel its election campaign.

Following the ouster of Mian Nawaz Sharif from power as a result of PTI’s petition in the Supreme Court, the slogan of “Go Nawaz Go” has become irrelevant for its future politics. Likewise, its crusade against corruption which mainly revolved around the Sharif family has also lost its vigor following the initiation of NAB proceedings against them.

It was in this background that the PTI leadership had to conceive a new slogan of early elections on the plea that present government had become paralyzed and country’s economy was in a pretty bad shape. Until the passage of delimitations bill by the Senate, Khan’s party was also banking on the possibility of elections being held on the old delimitations. In this likely scenario, holding of early polls seemed a possibility and the PTI was building pressure on the government to achieve this target.

But the situation changed altogether after the delimitation bill sailed smoothly through the upper house. Though the PTI sticks to its demand for early polls even today, this option is no more available given the six-month period involved in the delimitations process to complete. The Election Commission has also made it clear that the process will not be complete before May 3, 2018.

After having left with no issues to mobilize the electorate, the PTI leadership is now ready to get on the bandwagon of PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri who is planning to launch movement against the government. PTI chief Imran Khan visited PAT secretariat on December 26 to announce that his party will take active part in Dr Qadri’s movement aiming at getting justice for Model Town victims.

PTI was the first political party to go into election gear during the preceding year. It held successful political shows across the country as part of its election campaign. The year also witnessed important political figures joining the PTI from the four provinces.

Also, the intra-party dissensions in the PTI became more visible in the last month of the preceding year. 

At a party seminar held in Lahore to mark the birthday of country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, warring groups led by senior party leaders clashed with each other on a trivial issue.

This happened because different groups in the PTI led by Ch Sarwar, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Jahangir Khan Tareen, Aleem Khan and Ejaz Ch are vying to have maximum control over the party. Only time will tell if the PTI will become a coherent political force. 

The year 2017 brought some big challenges for the ruling PML-N. With the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif, a political dynasty spanning over three decades is under the shadows. Its future carries a lot of questions for the immediate family members now vying to have control over the party.

Following the nomination of Mian Shehbaz Sharif as the next prime ministerial candidate, the year passed leaving the most vital question unanswered as to who will be the next Chief Minister’s candidate from the PML-N after 2018 elections. 

Emergence of Labbaik Ya Rasoolallah and Milli Muslim League last year in a short span of time was also noted as significant development in country’s politics. The issue of Khatme-Nabuwat though a crisis of government’s own creation, still haunts the government. These developments have their political implications because they have placed the PML-N at disadvantageous position vis-à-vis its political rivals.

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