PPP on its own?

Published March 28, 2021

YOUSUF Raza Gilani’s selection as opposition leader in the Senate has deepened the chasm among the PDM parties, with some in the opposition using the word ‘betrayal’ to describe the development. The PML-N is furious and has accused PPP of getting covert support from the treasury benches — an allegation which, though the PPP rejects, merits closer inspection.

Mr Gilani secured the seat by getting the endorsement of 30 ‘opposition’ senators, including six independent legislators. Though these independent senators are not formally affiliated with a particular party, it is no secret that several of them are allied with the BAP and even sit on the treasury benches. Why, then, did BAP senators decide to support Mr Gilani?

The origins of BAP and its earlier role in Senate elections are shady as the party is seen as a creation of the establishment in the 2018 polls to deliver what is famously known as the ‘Sanjrani model’. Interestingly, these independent senators, who endorsed Mr Gilani for opposition leader not too long ago, voted against him and in favour of Mr Sanjrani to re-elect him as chairman. In fact, it has emerged that one BAP senator, Samina Mumtaz, wrote a letter in support of Mr Gilani as opposition leader, only to revoke it later when she was told that the ruling party’s ally could not endorse an opposition candidate.

These shenanigans point to more of the wheeling and dealing that yields a loyalty shift that has become a normalised occurrence in the Senate. The development also underscores the growing and perhaps irreconcilable mistrust among the PDM parties. Prior to the Senate election saga, the opposition parties had agreed among themselves that the nominees for Senate chairman, deputy chairman and leader of the opposition would be members of the PPP, JUI-F and PML-N respectively. It is when Mr Gilani lost the Senate chairman election that the PPP set its sights on the opposition leader slot.

Statements from both the PML-N and PPP in the aftermath of Mr Gilani’s notification betray a gap in communication but unfortunately, the situation is far beyond a simple misunderstanding. The reality is that the opposition parties are divided. The PPP’s go-it-alone strategy has come as a major blow to the unity of the opposition. What exactly is the benefit of this strategy to the party is the subject of conjecture; the only certainty is that it has given a boost to the government.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2021

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