IT now seems that the fate of yet another government will be written by parties with few seats, fewer principles and fewer yet scruples about cynically capitalising on their offices for personal gain. Yesterday evening, the PML-Q, with its five seats in the National Assembly, successfully forced Prime Minister Imran Khan to capitulate and nominate Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi as the new chief minister of Punjab.
With the vote of no-confidence, like Damocles’ proverbial sword, inching ever closer to the government’s neck, the PML-Q thought it opportune to demand all of Punjab as its pound of flesh for the handful of votes it should, as an erstwhile ally, have already been casting in the prime minister’s favour. It must have been painful for the prime minister to relinquish Pakistan’s most populous province, but his Faustian bargain may well be for naught. Soon after he was done compromising with one ally, another, the BAP, announced it would be voting against him.
A day earlier, Shahzain Bugti of the Jamhoori Watan Party, serving as special assistant for reconciliation and harmony in Balochistan, had announced his untimely defection. Meanwhile, the MQM is still waiting in the wings, likely sizing up what’s left of the political pie.
As intrigue rocked the government all of this outgoing month, its so-called allies prevaricated till the end, amply demonstrating that there is little that politically defines them apart from narrow self-interest and petty power grabs. Instead of making their decisions based on political principles, the leaders of the PML-Q and MQM made no attempt to even try and disguise the fact that their allegiance was available to whoever cut them a better deal. Though it is understood that all four of these parties’ strings are usually held firmly in the hands of anti-democratic forces, their self-serving brand of politics has become all the more evident at a time when all and sundry agree the puppet masters are taking a well-deserved break for some non-neutral neutrality. That is why, even though the opposition may be feeling a considerable measure of satisfaction at seeing the PTI humbled by the same forces they long accused of riding to victory, it is time all major parties across the aisle start thinking about how these ‘spoiler parties’ are to be politically dealt with in the long term.
Indeed, most of them — including the PML-N before it evolved into its current state — were created and propped up by undemocratic forces for their nuisance value, which greatly helped keep a check on the ambitions of political parties who got too big for their boots. The parties which seek to genuinely represent the people will find it wise, perhaps sometime in the not too distant future, to seize this outsized power back through democratically legislated means arrived at through broad consensus.
Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2022