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How hung will the parliament be?

  • About the immediate future…

If the result of today’s polling is anything but a hung parliament, it will be one of the greatest electoral shocks in the history of Pakistani politics. Perhaps the most shocked would be the party that manages to win a number of seats that’s large enough to form the government on its own.

That a coalition government is in the offing is one of the rare uncertainties about Pakistan today. The question the answer to which the election will provide, and why the nation is going through the hassle of polling, is with regards to the constituent units of that coalition.

Can the PML-N win enough seats to ensure that taking independent candidates and a few of the smaller parties on board would suffice in forming the government? Or can the PTI do it?

Will the PPP be the kingmaker and form the alliance that eventually leads the government. Will it be with the PML-N or the PTI? Which one would be more shocking?

Hence, with a hung parliament all but formed, the question is: how hung will it be?

How steep the slopes of the chords on which the parliament and the fate of this country will proverbially hang will be inversely proportional to the likelihood that the civilian government will muster whatever it is needed to finally exercise its authority in the domains that must not be named, country controlled by the state institution that must not be named.

Will the cycle be repeated and new laadlas be pushed into the frame? Or will blacklisting, sanctions, global banking isolation and a crumbling economy finally force a rethink? A retreat?

Or at the very least must not be named as it is, and be addressed through euphemisms, such as the ‘establishment’.

What will be the fate of the 18th amendment? What will be the future of the distribution of powers between the centre and provinces?

Curtailing the autonomy of the units and hogging it in the centre are the hallmarks of a totalitarian state, with a democratic one – which Pakistan still dares to identify as – preferring an egalitarian distribution.

What will the diplomatic manoeuvring of Pakistan be like? Will we continue to not really have any friends in the region, and be alienated by India, Afghanistan and Iran, all of whom are our immediate neighbours? Will we prefer putting all our eggs in the Chinese basket, which is a politer expression for de facto neo-liberal colonisaion being exercised by Beijing?

What about our submission to Saudi Arabia and the command of the so called Islamic military coalition that didn’t even pretend to even mull some action when the Israel Defence Force strikes Gaza or when the Indian army orchestrates the subjugation of Kashmiris?

What about the Donald Trump led US spelling as literally as possible that Pakistan is responsible for terrorism in the region?

Who will lead the next delegation to Washington begging to pave the way for an IMF bailout without which our economy will implode, with the rupee gatecrashing into 130 to the US dollar following a 21pc value shedding in little over seven months?

But the US – and even China for that matter – will ask about the militancy originating in Pakistan.

In what were deemed talks, FATF handed out a 10-point list which Pakistan must follow to avoid being blacklisted. So after an election contested by Hafiz Saeed’s AAT, Khadim Rizvi’s TLP and Ahmed Ludhianvi’s ASWJ, who will be tasked with telling the world that Islamabad is curtailing terror elements?

That hinges on the security policy, which no Pakistani parliament has ever had a say over – hung or otherwise.

Will the security policy continue to breed jihadist groups to be unleashed in de facto Indian and Afghan territory? Will this policy continue to assume that these groups, or their allies, won’t turn against Pakistan and kill tens of thousands of our citizens?

Will there be another civilian and military confrontation at a high level security meeting, which will be known as a scandal named after the newspaper that leaks the details?

If those hanging in the parliament are handpicked to toe the line, there might not be any leaks, and only global sanctions will loom. But if they aren’t the chosen ones, those are tired at being invited by watchdogs to explain policies that they don’t make and answer for actions that they don’t orchestrate, a scandal is on.

And what will happen if the chosen ones eventually want to cut off the strings that are pulling them, just like the previous chosen ones did – and the ones before that?

Will the cycle be repeated and new laadlas be pushed into the frame? Or will blacklisting, sanctions, global banking isolation and a crumbling economy finally force a rethink? A retreat?

All of these questions hinge upon this week’s most important question: how hung will the next parliament be?

K K Shahid

The writer is a member of staff

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K K Shahid

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