Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) activated a campaign against the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led government, targeting the President Mr Asif Ali Zardari in particular this week. Calling the campaign, “Go Zardari, Go,” a gathering in Lahore the main support base of the Party was well attended. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was in the forefront of the, ‘Go Zardari Go’ movement. Now it proposes to spread the same across the country in all the districts. The main demand is for early elections before the five-year term ends in 2013. The immediate motive however appears to be to scuttle the Senate elections.
Meanwhile another opposition party led by former cricket captain, Imran Khan, the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) is also set to launch its own campaign against the government and perhaps even the existing political order with a number of rallies which started in the tribal belt. PTI is considered to have support of some radical Islamist parties and also tacit approval of the Army. Thus the main agenda of the PTI has been so far anti America, with drone attack s by the US in the tribal areas taken up with vigour.
On the whole the rally and movement against President Zardari seems to be primarily directed at ensuring that the PPP does not consolidate its hold in the Senate, elections for which are due in March 2012. This can be upset in case the Punjab assembly is dissolved which would countermand senate elections and may deny PPP a majority. The PML N in case it opts for this course may create political turmoil that may continue till the end of 2012 or 2013 when general elections are to be held where it hopes to reap profits from such politicking. With Mr Imran Khan of PTI emerging as a powerful contestant in the PML N’s constituency of right of centre conservatives the situation may be worse for Mr Sharif, thus he is likely to churn up the political space even further.
Thus the political atmosphere in the country is heating up for seats in the Senate are decided based on the numbers that each party has in the National Assembly as well as provincial assemblies. The main opposition PML N except for Punjab lacks majority thereby providing the ruling PPP an advantage in a future senate as well which would have majority members from that party. As all legislation and election of the President is through the Senate a majority there would have implications in this dimension as well. Thus the PML N seems to be looking at subverting Senate elections by dissolving the Punjab Assembly which is controlled by the PML N. In case the same comes through Senate elections are likely to be scuttled but how this will impact the larger political scenario in the country remains to be seen?
Earlier during the month PML N Chief Nawaz Sharif severely criticised the government for prolonged electricity outages condemning indifference by the government. Thus the Party seems to be using all opportunities in the country along with flux in the government over recent tensions in US Pakistan relations to advantage thereby attempting to destabilize polity and hopefully go for mid term elections. That is the maximalist position that the PML N chief Nawaz Sharif seems to have adopted and he has even called on party workers to join the agitation against power outages and mobilise the street in order to highlight corruption.
But the PPP seems to be strongly placed for the present with estranged Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) agreeing to join the federal and provincial governments, while the PML-Q which threatened to quit having agreed to come back. The PML Q and the opposition PML N have a genuine grouse against poor administration by the PPP which has led to massive load shedding and people having to come on the streets. But with political deftness that has become the hallmark of the Zardari led and Gillani steered PPP government in Pakistan, the PML Q has reconciled with the ruling party and the MQM on cue has also planned to rejoin the government. What has led to this move by the two parties and particularly the MQM which has been joining and then pulling out of the government as a tactic to put the PPP under pressure and extract maximum concessions from the same remains to be seen? It is apparent that lure of being in power seems to be more than what the PML N has had to offer thereby posing challenges to Mr Nawaz Sharif’s plan to garner support for toppling the government and having mid term elections at a time when the PPP’s popularity is extremely low.
Thus it is likely to be a battle of wits between Mr Nawaz Sharif and Mr Zardari in the days and months ahead, so far the latter has been winning the game, what happens in the forthcoming round remains to be seen?