Islamabad: There was something deceptive about the placid mood at the National Assembly. Most members seemed busy chatting on the backbenches. Female members, mostly aunts, wives, daughters of PML (N) stalwarts, were seen reverting to their favourite pastime, matchmaking and exchanging food recipes. However, one must admit that, lately, some of them have employed better pursuits for their leisure. Knitting, for instance, is suddenly in vogue. Seeing the ‘lady politicians’ busing in their mundane chores one gets the impression as if everything is hunky-dory. Perhaps not! It is quite the opposite if you scratch a little deeper.
Beneath the glacial calm we could hear the resonance of noisy political undercurrents. The day after yet another PTI show, code-named “Plan C”, everybody waited for the so-called Plans D, E to perhaps Z with bated breath. Was it the PTI pressure tactic to bring the PML (N) back to the table, making it concede to the PTI demands? Or is the mighty Khan headed for a final showdown on the streets? Whatever the case, the ante seemed to have risen further.
Obviously, the PML (N) has backtracked from its earlier willingness to concede to most PTI demands minus the PM’s resignation. It made political sense. Why should Nawaz Sharif show flexibility when Imran was not calling off his agitation?
Surely, Imran has come down from his extreme position of either “death or PM’s resignation.” Things may have changed a little since then. The saner PTI elements, largely the elected members who do not want to resign, seemed to have prevailed. Perhaps the exigencies of maintaining a long agitation in winters are beginning to have its toll. But if the PML (N) would not show flexibility Imran was all set to stake the bets higher.
So who wins in the end? Perhaps nobody! PPP’s Khursheed Shah is one person who knows it better than others. A brigade of Young Turks in the PML (N) was all set to fight it out with the PTI. “Enough is enough,” sounded the clarion. Senator Pervaiz Rasheed articulated the sentiment by refusing to talk to the PTI. The moment he realised that the PML (N) was running out of patience and contemplated a showdown, Khursheed Shah swung into action. “I asked the PM if he really wants to fight it out on the streets,” the old warhorse told us in his chambers. Khursheed said the PM had dispelled the impression and had asked Ishaq Dar to resume dialogue with the PTI “if this could resolve the issue.” It is all about the timing now. The crucial issue is whether both sides would settle for reconciliation before the next stage of protest unfolds. There are possible consequences for both if they don’t.
The PTI’s threat to close down Lahore, Faisalabad, Karachi followed by the entire country seems, to say the least, daunting. The skipper seems to have already backed from postponing his Lahore show from December 4 to 15th. One reason could have been the rally of Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa on the same day in Lahore. In any case, it will not be easier for PTI to shut down Lahore.
The PTI skills to organise big rallies are proven but its expertise to close down a city is yet to be tested. It will not be easy for the PTI to dictate its terms in Fortress Lahore, particularly to the staunch PML (N) traders. Imagine Punjab Pullas unleashing its trademark tactics on PTI ‘burgers’ or PML (N) workers start reacting to their PTI counterparts. It will not be easier in Faisalabad where the PTI is yet to win a single national seat, let alone in MQM’s stronghold Karachi. It will be even funnier to see the PTI bringing its own government in the KP to a standstill.
The PTI can’t afford to see its movement culminating into a failure and the PML (N) will take a big risk if it allows its hawks to a violent showdown.Luckily, elements on each side realise this. PTI’s Shafqat Mahmood says that his party is willing to discuss even the controversial terms of references, provided the PML (N) accepted the already agreed demands. The point of contention is that the PML (N) contends that the prime minister would resign only if a systematic rigging is proved.
This means the proof of rigging is not enough; the PTI also needs to prove that it was done systematically to favour one party.Both parties have doves and hawks within their ranks. However, there is a difference between the two. In the case of the PML (N), Nawaz Sharif seems like a peacenik while he is surrounded by many, Nisar-like, hawks. It is the opposite in PTI. Imran Khan seems the lone hawk who would not give the saner elements in his party a patient hearing. However, we could hear some murmuring from Imran Khan’s camp about his backing down from closing the big cities. We keep our fingers crossed.
This infighting suits the Pindiwallahs so well. This keeps the political parties at bay and they can have their way on crucial foreign affairs in accordance with their own interpretations of national interests. The Zardari model is now the official PML (N) mantra as far as the foreign policy is concerned. The biggest example is the latest CBM extended to Pindi-wallahs in the shape of appointing our dear friend in New York. You never know another one on Mush might just be on its way. After all, most of this mess is all about that.
Isn’t it? Your guess is as good as mine.Tailpiece: The Cabinet reshuffle seems delayed. The government might add a few ministers and take away dual charge from ministers. But the change of big portfolios is off the table for the time being. We all know why.
December 2, 2014