Working together

Published April 24, 2024

PAKISTAN’S democracy seems adrift, and no one understands this better than our politicians. The system has gone into stasis, with no breakthrough seen over the past month or so that could indicate the direction it may be taking in the coming days. Even the parties currently in government — especially the powerful Nawaz camp within the PML-N — seem dissatisfied with the status quo, and there appears to be a growing realisation that the fight with the PTI continues only to the detriment of all who have been sucked into it. Meanwhile, the PTI appears unsure of what to do. Having lost much of its street power post-May 9 and perhaps hoping to hold on to whatever it managed to seize on Feb 8, it seems stuck between its hawkish support base, which seems to be constantly pushing for more confrontation, and the voices of reason within its leadership, who hope to get the party through its trials without being forced to surrender more than it already has.

In this context, perhaps one can afford to be cautiously optimistic about the surprise display of bonhomie in the National Assembly this Monday, which saw both the PTI and PML-N make concessions to each other and agree on the need to cooperate and work together on House business. It would appear that the parliamentary leadership of both parties, at least, has started seeing some value in ‘keeping thine enemy close’ even if their respective supporters still want nothing but the worst for each other. How long this bonhomie will last is anyone’s guess: the PTI leadership will not compromise on their incarcerated leader and has made it clear they want him out as a precondition for any concessions to the current political set-up. Meanwhile, former interior minister Rana Sanaullah, who is seen to be close to the elder Sharif, has extended a ‘reconciliation offer’ to Imran Khan, reminding him that the PML-N and PTI together can steer the country out of its present crisis. However, it seems like a very distant possibility given the gaping trust deficit separating the two. The government could, perhaps, show its goodwill by releasing all political prisoners forthwith. Meanwhile, Mr Khan must be convinced that a political resolution to the current crisis remains the most ideal path forward — not just for his party but for Pakistan in general.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2024

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