Opposition: Asset or liability -by Akram Shaheedi

Zardari-Nawaz-meet-Policy-of-reconciliation-to-continue
People took sigh of relief when they came to know through newspapers reports that back door diplomacy has been activated by the government to avoid the show down with the PTI because both political parties are inclined to exhibit equanimity and flexibility to address the issues. It must be understood that confrontation in democratic dispensation is a recipe for mutual destruction analogous to nuclear conflict in which there is no victorious; all are net losers to the hilt. The allegory is though highly disproportionate but explains the aftermaths beautifully. In democracy dialogue is the essence of its success and its denial smacks of democratic ethos. Disengagement is the highest form of naivety in democracy that brings unforgiving consequences for the contesting parties and for the nation alike.

Pakistan’s history of politics is testimony to the horrendous consequences of confrontational politics in the form of irredeemable loses inflicted on the federation, democracy and indeed to social and economic development — social development and democracy are intertwined. The Charter of Democracy signed by PML-N and the PPP in May 2006 is the confession and reiteration at the same time of the parties not to provide the anti-democratic forces the opportunity to derail the system. PPP’s record in this regard is unblemished since then by any measure. PML-N’s is not up to the mark because Nawaz Sharif challenged the PPP government in the SC to dislodge it by filing a writ petition of so called Memogate scandal. The anti-government campaign of PML-N and the PTI after the Speaker’s ruling in favour of then Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani is fresh in the memory of the people. The patience of the PPP leadership and their commitment to democracy steered them through the political crisis unscathed.

PTI Chief Imran Khan has given the deadline to the government for the acceptance of his demands with the threat that if his demands were not accepted he would launch a long march to Islamabad. Deadlines and long marches are justified in democracy only if these are the pressure tactics but should be rejected emphatically as a conduit to pave the way for undemocratic changes. History of Pakistani politics is filled with such counter-productive and dangerous moves of digging the collective political grave, by default or by design, by those who preferred obstinacy over negotiations and consequently paid the heavy price in terms of wrapping up the political system. Politicians, who served the pawns of establishment, were mainly responsible for the political mayhems the country remained embroiled in the past. They are still there but thankfully in short supply.

General Zia-ul-Haq imposed martial law on 5th of July 1977 because PNA’s few components were hands in gloves with the general who were doing his bidding. General Zia-ul-Haq declared martial law despite the press conference of ZA Bhutto a day earlier declaring that negotiations between PNA and the government had succeeded. But, Zia-ul-Haq’s obsession to take the reign of the country was insatiable and therefore despicable. Similarly, in October 1998, all the political parties were out in the streets under the banner of Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) but the then government led by Nawaz Sharif’s indifference to the demands of the whole opposition was undermining the importance of opposition in a democratic set up. Instead of building bridges with the opposition his lackadical approach led to the burning of the same providing the opportunity to the forces lurking in the shadow to strike. On October 12, General Musharraf took the advantage fueled by his personal whims and imposed martial law. The government leaders and the main opposition parties had to undergo the rigors of imprisonment, humiliation and exile for many years with prohibition to take part in politics. Hopefully, this time better sense will prevail and the leadership of PTI will take the stock of the whole situation before taking plunge in the long march.

The good news is that the government has launched interlocutors who have been trying to find common ground to avoid the long march of PTI. Such a protest also cannot be justified when the country is deeply engaged in a war that poses formidable threat to the survival of the country, our way of life and indeed the constitution — an embodiment of the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. Hopefully sense of proportion will prevail and both the parties will find a settlement. The nation will take a respite who has been on the tenterhooks since the PTI’s decision to take on the government.

Chairman Bilawal Bhutto has already appealed to the political leadership to shun their political difference and whole heartedly support the war against extremism and terrorism because survival of the country is at stake. Politics can take a back seat for a while and the politicians of all hues should put their whole political weight behind the ongoing military operation. Their infighting may provide the opportunity to terrorists to usurp the whole space this time to impose their redundant and toxic ideology, and the politicians presenting dismal picture of wringing their hands in despair and guilt. They are well advised to jointly perish the terrorists by pushing them to the gates of hell and secure the country from the dangers in absolute terms. Thereafter, they can resume the business of politics in an atmosphere of peace and security. Their politics now will be defined as sheer absurdity.

Politics is art of possible and the politicians who are not savvy of this art should jettison politics and opt for other vistas because their belligerence cobbled with incompetence has dangerous implications for the people and the country. Pakistani politics cannot afford the burden of such politicians and they should seek other avenues of their interest where their tendencies do not hurt the other people as in the case of public life.

Nawaz Sharif and the PNL-N should prove themselves beholder of paradigm shift in politics and conduct politics in such a way as to ensure the continuity of the democratic process in the country. They must keep this foregone conclusion in their mind that their failure to get along with other political forces this time will seal their political fate for all times to come. They should consider political opponents as an asset for democracy rather than liability. The perception of their inaptness will get strengthened beyond redemption if they nosedive prematurely this time. With the kind of majority in the Parliament if they scuttle to deliver it will be easy to infer for the electorates that their capacity and myopic vision to run the statecraft is not measuring up to the benchmark required for the governance and functioning democracy. They should forget they will get another chance on the political horizon of the country. Their manifestation of incongruity and lack of political prowess will be final nail in their political coffin. They must not create conditions forcing them for crash landing.

They should take leaf from the experience of the PPP previous democratic government that being the coalition government not only completed the constitutional terms of five years but also handed over power to the next government according to the best parliamentary democratic practices. As compared to PPP, the PML-N government is far better poised to run the affairs of the government and the Parliament seamlessly. It has absolute majority in the National Assembly, judicial activism has taken the back seat, media is comparatively less hostile and its government in the Punjab is source of strength and above all PPP, the second largest party, is supporting it for the sake of the continuity of democracy. Army is overstretched and deeply engaged to fight the menace of extremism and terrorism. Political analysts believe such ideal conditions are rarity in Pakistani politics. Not to capitalize on such political conditions in favour of democracy will tantamount to a tragedy of unimaginative proportion.

muhammadshaheedi@yahoo.com
Akram Shaheedi PPP Media Cell head
Monday, July 07, 2014
Source: The News

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