LAHORE - Although it is difficult to predict the future direction of the domestic political situation, one thing is very clear: political parties of various shades of opinion are out against the PML-N government. For the time being they have different agendas, but they may join hands in the days ahead on the basis of some minimum programme they may work out.
All political alliances formed in the past had passed through similar phases. The constituent parties had nothing in common but the situation brought them on the same platform within no time.
In the prevailing situation, it will be a great challenge for the rulers to prevent its adversaries from getting united and bringing the people out on the streets.
Sunday was the day of protests against the government. Various parties in their respective programmes bitterly criticised the rulers on various pretexts.
The Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf, for example, held a rally in Faisalabad, the second most important city of Punjab. This was the second such rally by the party of the former cricket star – Imran Khan – against the alleged rigging in the last year’s general elections. The first was held in Islamabad on May 11, the first anniversary of the polls.
The Pakistan Muslim League (Q) held rallies in various cities in support of the army, the institution the party believes is being targeted by the rulers. In fact, what was once known as King’s party because of the support it got from the army during Gen Musharraf’s period has been reduced to a paper tiger after the 2008 and 2013 polls. It wants to be seen as an active ally of the same institution to strengthen its own position.
The Pakistan Awami Tehrik held workers conventions in various cities as part of its plan to mobilise the masses against the rulers. PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri is determined to bring about a people’s revolution in the country by ousting the present government. The PAT leaders claim that the PML-N government would be out of power before the end of the year; however, it is unclear how the change would take place in such a short time.
The Jamaatud Dawa, though not a political party, held a rally in Karachi and criticised the government for its enthusiasm to improve ties with the new anti-Muslim Indian administration led by Narendra Modi.
The JuD thinks that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should not try to get closer to India while the Kashmir dispute remains unresolved.
Another party that chose to hold a rally in Karachi on Sunday was the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. It was aimed to express solidarity with its leader Altaf Hussain, but the speakers criticised both the Pakistan and British governments for the way the MQM chief was being “mistreated or discriminated against”.
The PML-N government can thwart the moves of all its opponents only if the party is fully united and its ties with the army are strong enough. But as things stand, its ties with the army are still not back to normal as the irritants have not been removed.
Observers say that the reports that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decided to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new Indian prime minister after taking all the stakeholders into confidence, including the army, don’t mean that civil and military leadership are on the same page on all issues.
Differences over Gen Musharraf’s fate and ISI’s complaint against a TV channel are yet to be settled.
Important former military leaders have pointed out that the army cannot tolerate the humiliation Gen Musharraf was being subjected to, but the prime minister is in no mood to show any flexibility even if he has to lose the government.
Knowledgeable sources say he has also told Gen Musharraf’s foreign friends that he will like the treason case decided in accordance with the law before thinking of any request to set the former president-COAS free.
The Saudis had played an important role in taking Mian Nawaz Sharif out of Pakistan after he was convicted by a special court. And since they have good terms even with Gen Musharraf they want to play a similar role for him.
It is said that the government can think of pardoning the former president once he was convicted by the three-judge special court, which is already seized of the matter.
Some people, it is said, advised the prime minister to let Gen Musharraf go abroad to inquire after his mother and for his own treatment. But the third-time prime minister rejected the idea.
His friends and foes are trying to assess what makes Mr Sharif so confident at a time when so many political forces have already turned against him.