Resignation talk

Published October 10, 2020

KHAWAJA Asif’s disclosure that the PML-N will resign from the 84 seats it has in the National Assembly has set off a flurry of speculation. While it echoes what Nawaz Sharif proposed at the multiparty conference last month, a lot must be unpacked and decided before this step is taken. No doubt in the past, the mass resignation option has been used by Benazir Bhutto in 1993 and more recently by Imran Khan in 2014. While this political tool has seen varying degrees of success by opposition parties who want to up the ante against an incumbent government, at this moment such a move might be called premature, even senseless.

The PDM is barely a month old. It is also the product of a marriage between various stakeholders whose agendas vary. Even though the platform is united in calling out the alleged interference of the military establishment in politics, since the alliance’s inception it has been apparent that each political party has individual grievances and proposals — some of which have been publicly aired. The PML-N has the largest share of opposition seats in the Assembly; yet to maintain the tone of resistance and defiance set by Mr Sharif, it has continued to talk of resignation. Then comes the JUI-F, with some 15 seats, but none for its leader and PDM chief who is also amenable to the idea of resignation. The PPP, however, appears unsure about the resignation of its 55 legislators in the Assembly at this stage, with Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari communicating the same to Mr Sharif at the MPC. With such lack of consensus, if just one major opposition party takes this extreme step, it will expose cracks in the movement. In fact, by being the only one to resign, the PML-N would hurt itself by forgoing the power of quorum to requisition a session, something no other opposition party has. While the PDM sorts out its differences, there is an opportunity for the government to reach out and engage opposition parties — something it has hardly attempted so far. One of the biggest setbacks is the unhealthy relationship between the opposition and government in parliament, which has resulted in the passing of ordinances and much wheeling and dealing for even key legislation. This stubbornness cannot continue as a political storm gathers before our eyes, ready to push the country into further turmoil.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2020

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