A united democratic front

The recently increasing political rivalry between the PPP and PML-N over the Senate chairmanship is not strange or unexpected

Should our respected political representatives be good enough to move forward steadily and carefully from hereon, putting aside political and ideological differences,it would be appreciated by those of us who would see Pakistan’s teething democracy strengthened.

This will be the second consecutive government which will complete its tenure.It has managed to do this despite much political turbulence. Even the previous tenure was not a smooth sailing journey — though the PML-N played a very friendly opposition to the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) government during its five-year tenure. In return, the PPP also saved the PML-N government in the present five-year tenure with their unexpected support whenever the PML-N was in hot-waters.

Both parties, PML-N and PPP, set an unprecedented example of supporting each other’s democratic governments against undemocratic moves and aggressive protests. Whatever the reasons were and whoever supported those undemocratic attempts in the garb of whatever allegations is not a story of the past. The undemocratic forces are working around the clock against constitutional governance.

While I congratulate all politicians over the successful Senate elections, the people of Pakistan shall expect more maturity from the political leadership in the days to come as they will be heading towards the election of the Senate Chairman. Special credit shall go to the PML-N for their patience and surviving the Supreme Court’s (SC) assault on them.

Being a leading party, the PML-N is expected to behave more maturely while dealing with other political parties, religious groups and other regional phenomenon. Its understanding with other democratic forces to support and favour the democratic values shall go on for the sake of strengthening the tradition of democracy. The party’s future in the Senate still hangs in the balance even after it has survived all the attempts to get them out of the race for the Senate.Any grand alliance of parties having thin presence in the senate can emerge just to disgrace the PML-N by grabbing the Senate chairmanship.

At the moment, the PML-N tops the list of political parties in the Senate with 33 senators including the winning ‘independent candidates’ who were supported by the PML-N parliamentarians. Actually they were the PML-N’s unanimous candidates to contest the Senate elections but the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) barred them from using the party name after the SC’s decision to prohibit Mian Nawaz Sharif from heading the party as president.

Almost everyone believes that the court’s decision should have been implemented from the day of decision the former PML-N president was expelled. His previously taken decisions as the PML-N president should not have been nullified. The ECP’s implementation of the SC’s decision is being perceived as an unwarranted decision. If the ECP decision sets a precedent, then after being removed as the PM, all the decisions taken by Mian Nawaz Sharif should have been invalidated.

All the recent court decisions have evidently proven to be ‘vengeful’ for unforeseen reasons and are being termed by the democrats, political experts and intellectuals as interference in the steadily strengthening democratic system of Pakistan. They expect more unwise and undemocratic decisions against the political process in the near future. Every effort is being made for the political ouster of the PML-N that has gained sympathy-based popularity countrywide.

The recently increasing political rivalry between the PPP and PML-N on the Senate chairmanship is not strange or unexpected. Many believe a rift is being created intentionally by the establishment between two parties that have been supporting each other’s regime against criminal actions for the past ten years.

One hot rumour is that the PPP has made a contract with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in a bid to block the PML-N from electing its Senate Chairman and Deputy Senate Chairman. So, is there an unexpected and unholy political emergence in the offing? If so, it is imperative to assess the impact this could have on the country’s political future. In my humble opinion, this phenomenon will cause more foolish and greedy decisions from our political leaders.

What could be wiser than the PML-N and PPP remaining allied for the Senate top slot elections? This would reflect their maturity and help run the system with more consensus, which would result in a stronger legislature and a smoothly running Executive

Citing sources, a news channel reported that in case a consensus arose between the two parties, PPP will get the chairman Senate slot and has offered the Deputy Chairman position to PTI. Some of the PTI leaders have assured the PPP that they will convince Party Chief Imran Khan to accept the offer extended by the PPP.

PML-N is leading in Senate with 33 seats while the PPP and PTI stand at second and third positions with 20 and 12 seats respectively. Can this alliance achieve its goals when the votes they have together are fewer than the PML-N’s? Whatever, the race for the top slot of Chairman Senate is in full swing for which the independent candidates have assumed significance as no major party has enough numbers to do it on its own without their help.

A newly elected senator from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Mirza Mohammad Afridi met with Nawaz Sharif this Monday and announced that he will be joining the party. Although the PML-N now has 34 senators, 19 short of the required number, there will be a lot of jockeying to clinch the office of the chairman. There is a wide gap of 14 votes between the number one, the PML-N, and the runner-up, the PPP. Without taking into account, the alignment of the independents in the chairman’s election, the PML-N has a solid chunk of 34 seats. On the other hand, the PPP has a concrete block of 20 MPs.

Thus, the PML-N is 19 votes short of hitting the magic figure of 53, the simple majority, in the 104-member chamber to elect its nominee as the chairman. In contrast, the PPP requires another 33 MPs to clinch the berth for the third consecutive three-year term. Obviously, it will be an uphill task to rally around this huge tally. It is beyond a doubt that the National Party (NP) of Hasil Bizenjo that has five senators and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) of Mehmood Achakzai with its five MPs will stand behind the PML-N, thus bringing its total number to 44 senators.

In the present scenario, it would be wise for the PPP to accept the realities on ground and refrain from any manoeuvring that may further hamper their party’s reputation. For the PPP, it would be democratically wise to wait for the general elections for any political adventure. For a fruitful and strong democratic system, what could be wiser than the PML-N and PPP remaining allied for the Senate top slot elections? This would reflect their maturity and help run the system with more consensus, which would result in a stronger legislature and a smoothly running Executive.

The writer is an Islamabad-based policy advocacy, strategic communication and outreach expert. He can be reached at devcom.pakistan@gmail.com. He tweets @EmmayeSyed

Published in Daily Times, March 7th 2018.