Political manoeuvring

Nawaz Sharif, it seems, has finally given in to the demands of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) about the ‘hosting’ of the proposed All Parties’ Conference (APC). If according to the original plans, Nawaz had been the host of such a conference, it would have given him a popularity boost among national and international political circles. This was not easily digestible for Benazir Bhutto, who refused to accept Nawaz’s personal invitation to the APC. Benazir’s unwillingness to accept an independent initiative of PML-N is of course understandable as both these parties, while portraying themselves as allies under the umbrella of the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD), are both unwilling to give any sort of political mileage to the other. It was clearly a pressure tactic used by Ms. Bhutto, which has worked to perfection. A conference of all political parties sans the leadership of one of the strongest opposition forces in Pakistan, the PPP, would have made the platform look less credible, thus leading Nawaz to buckle under pressure and accept Benazir’s terms.

Besides Nawaz gaining an edge over Benazir by being host to such a platform, another factor that might have irked the PPP was the list of invitees. The invitation to the leadership of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is evidently quite unacceptable for the PPP. If the APC is held from the ARD platform, it is possible that these two would be excluded as they are not members of the ARD. Yet it is also possible that Nawaz could request Benazir to allow the MMA and PTI leadership to attend the said meeting. The MMA, or rather the Qazi Hussain Ahmad faction of the MMA, is interested in joining the opposition’s bandwagon after General Musharraf’s refusal to take off his uniform and the passing of the Women’s Protection Act (WPA). The other part of the MMA, the Fazlur Rehman side, is not in any mood to give up its power in two provinces and other perks. Meanwhile, it has finally dawned on Imran Khan that a solo flight in politics would not land him anywhere; thus he is also weighing his options and considering being an ally of the united opposition. It remains to be seen whether the MMA and the PTI will attend the all parties’ meeting under the aegis of the ARD.

The opposition in Pakistan is not only weak, but divided. The PPP is the strongest contender at the moment as it has not lost its vote bank or its organisational structure. Apart from a few dissidents in the form of the ‘Patriots’, the PPP is intact. On the other hand, the PML-N has suffered the most with the emergence of the King’s Party. Most of its members did not waste a singe moment before jumping into the lap of President Musharraf. The PPP knows of its strong position and the PML-N is aware of its weakness. Both parties are now trying to get back into the political picture at any cost. The opposition is all for the one-point agenda of removing President Musharraf, but the agreement is only on paper. The ‘united’ opposition’s division can be easily seen in the internal jockeying for power each partner is involved in. No united struggle can take place if every opposition party is fighting for turf and position. The only winner in this scenario is President General Pervez Musharraf, who would gladly take advantage of this political divide and play it to his own advantage.

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