Déjà vu all over again

Another bid to ‘unify’ the different factions of the Muslim League is being witnessed these days under the patronage of Pir Pagara. The Muttahida Muslim League (MML) that has emerged from these efforts is a merger of four factions of the League – PML(F), PML(Zia), PML(Like-minded) and Awami Muslim League. Historically, the unification of Muslim League only comes about when some shadowy forces are at work. Otherwise, their practice has been to ‘unite later, split first’. The Muslim League has very often been the handmaiden of dictators and part of anti-democratic manoeuvres in our history. Under newly appointed president Pir Pagara, PML-Q’s dissident group who like to call themselves ‘like-minded’ have joined the MML bandwagon in yet another opportunistic move, perhaps encouraged by the ‘invisible angel’ friends of the Pir. It is ironic that Allama Iqbal and Jinnah’s Muslim League has remained hijacked by opportunists for the most part of our history as an independent country. These ‘men for all seasons’ waste no time in hopping from one party to another, depending on in which direction the favourable wind is blowing, just to remain close to the powers-that-be. The PML-Q and the PML-N have not yet shown any interest in joining the MML while it is not yet clear why Musharraf’s All Party Muslim League (APML) has not been given a seat at the new table.

Despite that, PML-N spokesperson Ahsan Iqbal dubbed the MML as Musharraf’s “alumni club” and said that “various alliances and individuals are being fielded with a plan to divide the PML-N vote bank in the next elections” in a bid to obstruct its success in the future. On the other hand, the PPP’s moves to woo the PML-Q, and the latter’s opening a channel to Shahbaz Sharif might be among the reasons why the Chaudhry brothers have not yet become a part of the MML, preferring an enigmatic silence so far. The PPP’s government is surviving by default as there is no other alternative in sight and no other party is willing to take responsibility for the multiple crises in the country. Even those who want to see the back of the PPP are in a bind as there is no other option available to bring a change of government through the electoral/democratic process. Thus, it must be asked if unifying the Muslim League is a political move to create some ripples in the ‘stagnant’ political landscape. Everyone is trying to explore some new options these days. Therefore, it is possible that the four factions that have joined the MML platform having become virtually irrelevant politically, have now come together to gain some political mileage. It is no secret that Pir Pagara is the blue-eyed boy (read old hand) of the GHQ and the MML’s inspirational roots therefore seemingly trail back to Rawalpindi. If indeed this is the case and these manoeuvres are afoot to create new possibilities, its implications are serious. Some powerful forces want an end to this government.

Under these circumstances, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s overconfidence in his government should be taken with a pinch of salt. Mr Gilani may not be afraid of the unification of the Muslim League, but if those lurking in the shadows succeed in their aims, the PPP should be worried. The MML’s chances of becoming a powerful political entity are quite dim, yet we never know what conspiracies are being hatched behind closed doors. There are indeed no permanent friends or enemies in politics, and certainly not in Pakistani politics.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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