PESHAWAR: Negotiations are over and deals sealed after which major stakeholders among the political parties with presence in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly-elect stand reinforced.
The new provincial assembly was set to begin with 14 members-elect who returned to it after contesting the May 11 election as independent candidates. A dozen of them have joined one or another political party, citing reasons suitable to their chosen political ideology. This has also been the case with the new National Assembly and the assemblies-elect of other provinces.
The independent MPAs’ electoral wins in the May 11 election, if on the one hand, were the result of their pragmatism and supreme political judgement as they chose to contest without using the platform of any political party. On the other, their wins reflected the will of voters who rejected candidates fielded by political parties.
However, the voters’ decision stands altered and composition of the provincial assembly-elect changed since most of these MPAs have joined political parties.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, which won the highest number of 35 seats on May 11, formed the best bet for a majority of the independently elected MPAs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Nine independent MPAs quickly transformed their personal electoral agendas in line with PTI’s election manifesto. PTI was equally quick in accepting these MPAs.
The party’s parliamentary leader in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly Pervez Khattak was the man in charge of hackneying independent MPAs. A crafty Khattak, given his previous experience as a wheeler-dealer, among the PTI MPAs-elect knew well what it takes to make people change sides.
In the days after May 11 polls, he presented in ones and twos independent MPAs at a jointly held press conferences where the switch over were formally made public.
Hence, the party that rose to power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with promises to bring about change fall victim to a system that it wants to change. If its decision to lure these MPAs into its ranks to consolidate its position in the power politics was not akin to a betrayal of its claims, the way it conducted itself in the days after the polling day is not any different than other political parties’ discourse.
Had Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz not announced to respect PTI’s public mandate in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam would have adopted the same path that PTI pursued, negotiating deals with independent MPAs in its bids to outsmart the Tehreek.
The PTI’s discourse and the power politics it practiced in the post-election day have certainly helped it consolidate its position in the provincial assembly. It, however, involves a price.
In achieving numerical strength, PTI became part and parcel of the very rotten political system that it vows to change.
It is a system that allows the few to alter majority’s verdict. It is a system that allows political expedients and manoeuvrers to make democracy a joke at the cost of larger public interest.
One could say that the independent MPAs’ joining PTI, Qaumi Wattan Party (QWP), and Awami Jamhoori Ittehad Pakistan (AJIP) is the result of a lawful process.
The criticism against the practice for it being questionable on moral and ethical grounds is equally valid.
When two sides negotiate a matter their chances to strike a deal depends on their ability to make compromises. It is obvious that the independent MPAs join parties against some commitments by the parties they choose to join. It is also obvious that parties who accept independent MPAs in their folds lose some ground to the new entrants, compromising, at times, their election manifesto.
In one particular case, PTI has committed itself to new entrants’ demand that is against the party’s stated position on the creation of new provinces.
PTI’s position on the creation of new province, as per its election manifesto, is simple and clear. The party says that it ‘will support the creation of new provinces based on administrative requirements, not on ethnic lines.’
The two MPAs elect from Hazara division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who joined the PTI a few days ago have an equally clear position on the creation of Sooba Hazara. They represent a popular demand that seeks to carve out a new province out of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by putting together the Hindko speaking Hazara areas as Sooba Hazara.
Before striking deals with independent MPAs, PTI made post-election alliances for forming a coalition government with QWP, Jamaat-i-Islami and AJIP – the three political entities with varied political ideologies and extremes.
While JI pursues extreme right politics with a Jihadi agenda, QWP of Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao has an outdated nationalist posture. AJIP provides a rare example of a party formed and run by a wealthy family.
Ideally, JI and QWP should have extended unconditional support to PTI without becoming part of the provincial cabinet. They could have asserted their agenda to PTI at a time when it would have needed their numerical strength to get its annual budget passed from the provincial assembly. That is how a minority-government works in matured democracies.
Imran Khan’s PTI could have done differently. Its decision to form coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reflects more of a status quo than a promised change.