A view of the National Assembly. — Photo by APP

An opposition is considered to be the alternative government, but in Pakistan the opposition seems least interested in affairs crucial to the country. For the last six months or so, the nonchalance on part of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on crucial developments – political and economic – makes it look like a wayward, rudderless ship.

Most recently, its inability to take the government to task over the budget was painfully apparent. In any budget session, the government is expected to announce its development plans and how it intends to manage the national economy, which includes collection of taxes and meeting its liabilities. This is also the part of the National Assembly proceedings that broadly sets the parameters of the working relationship between the treasury and opposition for the rest of the year.

In most countries with the parliamentary system of governance, the opposition uses the budget session to grill the treasury on its spending. After all, how well the economy is doing and what the budgetary documents reveal, determines whether a government is doing well or not.

However, over here, the budget came and went, and political analysts were left wondering: would the PMLN stand up? The opposition at best has so far managed to pull a few punches and holler. In fact, since the presentation of the budget on June 1, the PML-N has only protested against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. According to the PML-N, after the conviction, Mr.Gilani has no right to hold powers of the prime minister of the country, and hence should resign forthwith.

It’s obvious that the party is wasting its breath and time, and letting a crucial opportunity of letting the masses know how badly Dr. Abdul Hafiz Sheikh, federal finance minister and his team has spent the country’s kitty. After all it’s an election year and the opposition party’s lawmakers must tell its voters how the PPP-led government is failing them.

It had missed a similar opportunity earlier, when in November last year, the party opted to leave the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), because Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan did not like the appointment of a dual national as auditor-general of Pakistan.

If the PML-N was till in charge, it would have taken the government to task as for the first time in the history of the country, the PAC was to take up accounts of the sitting government.

Even on other political developments, the PML-N has been sitting on the fence. The party’s response to the ‘family-gate’ involving Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and his family has been equivocal. Except for a couple of PML-N lawmakers, the rest of the party leadership has maintained a mysterious silence on the issue.

Both the leader of the opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Khawaja Saad Rafique have expressed their concerns over the party’s ties with the real estate tycoon, Malik Riaz but the Sharif brothers have issued perfunctory statements in favour of the judiciary. Interesting to note is that fact that they have yet to hit out against the property magnate.

On the other hand, Mr. Riaz has gone to the media and claimed that he has family ties with Shahbaz Sharif, an association which he hasn’t denounced as yet. In fact, during an interview with a private TV channel, Mr Riaz claimed to have treated two sons of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif — Hamza Shahbaz Sharif and Salman — as his own children.

On other fronts too, the opposition party has been inconsistent on maintaining its stringent positions. Initially, it had resisted from taking in politicians who had defected and joined former General Pervez Musharraf, but of late the party leadership has itself broached them to strengthen its flanks against the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) and the governing PPP.

It has already joined hands with the like-minded group, a breakaway faction of the PML-Q.

The PMLN’s half-hearted but repeated calls for early elections and long march against the government have seen no success. A few months back, the party launched the go-Zardari-go campaign, but it lost the steam without even taking off. It remains to be seen how the PML-N’s on-going go-Gilani-go campaign shapes up in coming days.

For now it’s obvious that the PML-N if it wishes to see a return to the parliament even as opposition and in equal numbers would have to be interested in issues that affect the common man.


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