Bursting of the bubble

Divisions and distortions in a march into wilderness

“The majority see the obstacles, the few see the objectives. History records the successes of the latter while oblivion is the reward to the former.”

–Alfred Armand Montapert

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The launch of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), not too long ago, was studded with much fanfare and grandiose proclamations. But, within a short span of time, it appears to have wilted under myriad pressures from within to be reduced to a shadow of the self that it was purported to be. What are those factors which have impacted it to an extent that people are now forced to refer to it as of the past rather than of the future?

At best, the PDM was an amalgamation of conflicting interests. Its components were not brought together by any threat looming over the institution of democracy in the country. They joined hands because their brand of politics was under threat which is built around the absolute ascendance of family oligarchies where the mantle of leadership passes from the father to the son or daughter and from one brother to the other. In the process, the one who assumes the top office ensures that the rest of the family members and the principal benefactors are accommodated at all key positions in the corridors of power encompassing the offices of the chief ministers, governors, ministers, advisors, et al. It is thus that the process of illicit accumulation begins, with nothing spared from the insatiable greed of these monsters.

The forthcoming show in Islamabad would be worth watching– not for any bold and decisive move on way to dislodging the incumbent government, but to see whether the constituent parties are able to tide over their increasing differences. By all indications, the bubble has already burst as the government looks forward to gaining a majority in the Senate to unfurl its agenda of reform and change in earnest

Although the parties are managed through imposition and practice of strict discipline, some voices of discontent keep emanating from various quarters, thus forcing the leaders to letting the scourge of corruption filter down the hierarchical order. It is then that the mafias take shape within the governmental echelons which are all empowered to gratify their latent instincts at the cost of the state. So, we have a vast beneficiary elite standing out by their opulence fed on a spree of loot and plunder with the state and its marginalised multitudes languishing on the fringes of life.

It is a tragedy of no small proportions that this country has been held hostage by succeeding oligarchies which were hoisted to the seats of power. While their assets grew exponentially, the very chances of survival of the impoverished diminished with the passage of time. So huge is the disparity between the rulers and the ruled that one’s head is bowed in eternal shame.

The parties of the PDM banded together because their infatuation with accruing benefits for advancing their myopic and self-centred agendas, was under threat from someone who wanted to change it all for the larger good of the state and the people. By exerting pressure earlier on, they thought that, like a string of them in the past, Imran Khan, too, would wilt under and give them reprieve from multifaceted crimes they had committed through their tenures in power. It is not just the pelf they had accumulated over time that they wanted to save, but also their avowed celestial right to come back to rule the country again. They felt threatened that not only their assets would be taken away by the incumbent, their brand of politics, too, would be buried six feet under. So, true to the Prime Minister’s prophesy, all these bandits have got together in a desperate bid to save their skins.

But every partnership has its own dynamics. It would work if there is a general consensus among the constituents with regard to the objectives of the coalition as well as the strategies to be adopted to get to their goal. It appeared in the beginning that the parties had gathered around a common agenda of agitation with a sinister game plan regarding how to wage it. The one factor they had all taken for granted was the support of the people. They thought that since the life of the poor had become difficult because of inflation, they would come out readily. This assumption proved fallacious as their rallies were scantily attended. The presence of people kept shrinking further till it was reduced to a trickle.

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There was another kind of pressure growing from within their ranks. This came in the shape of venomous speeches by Nawaz Sharif and his cohorts who attacked the institutions of the state, most notably the military, for having sponsored the new government. They not only held it responsible collectively, they also attacked some key individuals by name. This did not go down well with the security institution which was forced to come out with its own version. In the process, the PDM lost any possible support that it could garner from these quarters and which it had been trying to secure by holding clandestine meetings with them. These were later made public.

This increased the pressure on the constituent parties. As little public support dashed their hopes of marching on Islamabad, their options seemed to be narrowing. It is then that the PPP started drifting away. First it disagreed with the proposal of tendering resignations from the assemblies. It is understandable also as PPP is the only political party with real-time stakes in the shape of their government in a province. Then they disengaged from the attacks on the military. Later, they put forth the idea of trying to remove the incumbent government by moving a vote of no-confidence. This was publicly rubbished by the PML(N and JUI(F) who asked Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to show his hand. So far, the PPP has refused to budge.

The idea of building the protest to a deafening crescendo, resigning from the assemblies and leading a mammoth march on the citadel of power having all crashed one after the other, the PDM is back to the drawing board as its leaders meet in Islamabad on February 4 to chalk out a new strategy to move hence. With divisions within growing, the chances of a consensus appear slim. Will this lead to a break-up of the coalition?

Well, in a way, it already has. The vile merchant of religion, who is now also accused of having accumulated assets beyond his known means, has been threatening of late that if all decisions are to be taken by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Maryam Nawaz, he would rather quit the leadership of the coalition. I reckon that it would be the top agenda item when they meet this coming Thursday.

The chances of the PPP agreeing with Maulana Fazalur Rehman’s agenda are virtually negligible. They all have their own compulsions. The PPP is unwilling to sacrifice its power factor. They are also inclined to going soft on the security apparatus of the country. The PML(N) is rent asunder through internal divisions, mostly coming from Shahbaz Sharif’s family and their support base. There are also serious reservations among a vast segment in the party about the poisonous Nawaz Sharif narrative. They have expressed their inability to extend support to a chronicle of division. The JUI(F) has similar issues, with some of its founding stalwarts having quit the party, accusing the leader of accepting financial aid from some foreign countries.

The forthcoming show in Islamabad would be worth watching– not for any bold and decisive move on way to dislodging the incumbent government, but to see whether the constituent parties are able to tide over their increasing differences. By all indications, the bubble has already burst as the government looks forward to gaining a majority in the Senate to unfurl its agenda of reform and change in earnest.

Raoof Hasan
The writer is a political analyst and the Executive Director of the Regional Peace Institute. He can be reached at: [email protected]; Twitter: @RaoofHasan.

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