While the PTI sets out to woo independents and fledgling parties to shore up its numbers, the country’s two major parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have aligned their strategies to form a mutually beneficial association as the opposition alliance.
The move is reminiscent of the 2002 elections when the PPP and PML-N had forged an anti-government coalition — Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD), in league with MMA, to campaign for Pakistan’s return to civilian rule after the 1999 military coup led by General Musharraf. The tenacious alliance had given a tough time to the military government bringing the parliament to a standstill for a record one year.
Given the seamless alignment of the proceedings and machinations of the superstructure leading up to the elections, particularly relative to the judicio-military matrix, and currently with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf poised to form its government at the Centre, it was anticipated that the two thwarted parties would put aside their differences to take up the more recompensing task of filibustering with the Imran Khan-led PTI government within the parliament. Along with the Muttahida-Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) whose party head Maulana Fazlur Rehman also aims to jointly field candidates for parliamentary offices and make every effort to prevent the PTI from forming its government at the Centre, the collective seats of the PPP, PML-N and MMA become 117 — two more than the PTI. Their combined numbers stand as a formidable hitch in the National Assembly and the Senate, a looming hurdle that is taking the gloss off of PTI’s victory.
In a balanced and democratic parliament, the role of the Opposition is to question the government of the day and hold them accountable. Where the budding alliance has unanimously refuted the polls on claims of rigging and political engineering, it can be expected that this narrative will colour its role in the opposition benches, and foment a reign of foreseeable stalemates, deadlocks and friction. In similar vein, Imran Khan’s own blanket disavowal of forming a coalition government with either of the two larger parties might have been congruous with his anti-corruption rhetoric, but ultimately might prove to be a rash pronouncement where, for once, political expediency for the sake of polity-building might have been the more pragmatic move. Where one can question the relevance of such personalised vendettas in a forum where political parties should be upholding democratic values and effective governance as the ultimate mandate of the parliament, it seems that, as ever, contrivances and power plays remain an intrinsic part of the Pakistani political process.