Let the games begin

Published February 8, 2022
The writer is a journalist.
The writer is a journalist.

ON Sunday morning, it was not just Lata’s death that brought “aaj phir jeene ki tamana hai…” to mind but also the news stories about the opposition’s weekend date in Lahore. ‘PML-N-PPP come closer on no-trust move against PTI govt’, said Dawn. ‘PMLN, PPP agree on options to oust PTI govt’, announced The News, while Tribune led with ‘PML-N, PPP agree on no-trust move against PM Imran’.

The tamana (wish) expressed in the headlines was due to what parties’ leadership said to the media, after their lunch and tête-à-tête. A case of triumph of hope over experience indeed for those who may not be desi enough to have heard Lata sing for Waheeda Rehman in the iconic film Guide.

When Rosie, Waheeda Rehman’s character in Guide, sang Aaj phir… it was to indicate the life-changing decision she had just made, but no one can explain what had changed for the two parties on Sunday for them to have hope, yet again, in their hearts.

After all, little water has passed under the bridge for the two parties to have gotten over the mess in the Senate, where their missing members including the leader of the opposition, also known as a former prime minister, cost them the opportunity to block the State Bank bill which both parties had described in the darkest terms possible. From sovereignty of the country to kala qanoon (black law) to parallels with the East India Company, we heard it all for weeks and then it was followed by a squib in the Senate, quite like any Bollywood dud starring a superstar. Think Shahrukh Khan’s last, Zero.

It wasn’t just the defeat but also the aftermath in which Noon’s Dr Musadik Malik’s anguished tweet berating Yousuf Raza Gilani became the talk of town as did Gilani sahib’s public ‘resignation’. Nothing has come of either; neither was the good doctor asked to explain away his tweet (or delete it) and nor has the leader of the opposition in the Senate offered any updates on his plans to resign. But the leadership was able to forget all past mishaps to come together to break bread in Lahore for the sake of a rosy future.

Will the PPP and PML-N achieve anything more this time except for adding to the pressure on Khan?

So, what did they discuss? According to the newspapers, ‘options’ for getting rid of the PTI. Dawn’s headline offered the least hope by announcing the two sides were moving closer, without offering details on how much distance had been travelled. The News spun it more optimistically by saying the two had agreed on ‘options’, allowing the readers to forget that the problem is the agreement on a single option.

After all, we’ve been told for months that the PPP wants a no-confidence movement in Punjab — they insist, for they believe blindly that the moment Usman Buzdar is pushed off his seat, Imran Khan will follow him into the sunset. The why and how are irrelevant. Faith cannot be weakened by logical questions. The PML-N, on the other hand, has always been sceptical that such a move would succeed without the assurance of the powers that be and also on what should follow (they want to call elections and not form a new government). And it has also, in whispers, asked why the PPP was so keen on removing Buzzy, whose critics range from PTI wallahs to Pindi wallahs. The possible answers don’t fill the Noonies with much hope and confidence. No wonder then that Sharif junior who was playing host and peacemaker on the weekend himself conceded that his party was divided on the matter of the no-confidence move and he would now try to convince his brother. And these promises of making his brother come around are not new either.

Moreover, we still don’t know whether the PML-N has agreed to a no-confidence move in Punjab first as the PPP once wanted, or has the latter agreed to begin with the centre? Keeping in mind their communication gap, one doesn’t want the Pipliyas to be moving a vote of no-confidence in Punjab the day the Noonies turn up in the National Assembly to oust Imran Khan.

But for either they may still need the help of allies who like the hapless women in our television dramas are insisting on sticking to the dead-beat companions they have been saddled with. The PML-Q has said it also and so did the MQM on Sunday when it criticised the government for the economic mess, but added just for good measure that it wasn’t planning on going anywhere.

So where does that leave our opposition? Not very far from where they were a few months ago: short of the numbers and ‘established’ support needed to succeed. And there’s still not enough common ground between one party which has a province to dominate and govern and another which has been denied its fair share. Yet, they have come together to promise a fairy-tale ending, which will send Khan into a tizzy in his next speech. But other than that, will there be any other outcome, forcing one to ask what are the Noonies and the Pipliyas smoking?

No one knows but chances are that AAZ and BBZ are just playing nice, which they do after they have (inadvertently or otherwise) caused the rug to be pulled from underneath the Noon. As for the Noonies, the method to their madness is about as clear as the decisions made by Khan.

Read more: Much-hyped PML-N CEC undecided on no-trust move

But the two parties’ promises, talks and meetings will keep us all busy for some days to come. News stories, discussions about whether Khan is leaving and how soon and guesswork about what Nawaz Sharif is thinking or not thinking will dominate the political chit-chat. And keeping in mind the past three and half years, one is forced to ask if they will achieve anything more this time around except for adding to the pressure on Khan.

At times, it seems the reason for the relevance of the PPP and PML-N is to provide hot air to news shows, preventing the latter from discussing serious issues such as inflation, economic handling and the fragile security situation. The coming week will reveal all, especially once Khan holds forth about ‘kruption’ and ‘chor’.

The writer is a journalist.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2022

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