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Friendly exchanges

November 29, 2012

AFTER being treated to some charged scenes, the audience has finally been given relief. Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira on Tuesday showed his opposition to any move to disqualify Nawaz Sharif — the FIA probe of allegations that the PML-N chief had taken money from the ISI in 1990 providing the likely background. Though he didn’t give the context, the minister said those who thought Mr Sharif could be ousted from politics were living in a fool’s paradise. A couple of days earlier, Mr Sharif had said he would not mind taking oath from President Asif Ali Zardari if elected prime minister after the next polls. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has also in recent days offered the PML-N leaders some praise. Such has been the history of this country that even a handshake involving two opposing politicians can conjure up drastic scenarios about the intentions of a non-political force. Past interventionists will have to stay committed to elected rule for a much longer period before these fears are banished altogether.

Like life and television soap, Pakistani politics is full of intrigues and squabbles and frequent cheek-rubbing among friends and partners, enemies and nemeses. The relationship between the PML-N and PPP is in focus because of their central role and their vow to change the political culture. These two parties may be mercurial by design. When they are at each other’s throat, they scare the faint-hearted but do endear themselves to those who want hostilities to continue. Contrarily, an exchange of reconciliatory messages between the rivals pleases one group at the risk of angering brash fighters in their ranks. Neither party can be seen to be intimidated by the other, but then, neither can they brandish their firepower as they had done in the past for fear of alienating large groups of wary Pakistanis. This is a difficult balancing act to perform. As for those looking for some decency in politics, they have no choice but to look at the increased number of polite exchanges between politicians as the beginning of a lasting tradition where issues can be discussed in sober tones.