The latest statement by PPP leader Naveed Qamar, that the PPP will refuse to follow Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, PML(N) President Shehbaz Sharif, was perhaps inevitable after the PML(N) said huffily that its Senate Parliamentary Party would not follow Yusuf Raza Gilani as Leader of the Opposition, as the PPP had reneged on its commitment to let the PML(N) nominate the Leader of the Opposition. It seems as if the election of Mr Gilani as a Senator was the high point of the PDM alliance between the PPP and the PML(N), and it all went downhill from the failure to elect him as Senate Chairman. Now it seems that the PPP is preparing to go a step behind the pre-PDM stage, when the PPP had accepted Mr Sharif as the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly.
The main PDM components have got internal differences over strategy, and until they resolve those, they will not find themselves able to convince the other components that they are to be trusted. The PML(N) finds itself not knowing whether to accept the Nawaz narrative, which insists on a confrontation with the establishment, or the Shahbaz narrative, which wants a cooperative relationship with the establishment. The PPP has its own problems, with former Chairman Reza Rabbani expressing doubts about the wisdom of dickering with the government’s allies, as it did to get Mr Gilani elected. There is also the need to settle his doubts about the PPP efforts in the Punjab, an example of how one party’s internal cohesion affects the entire alliance. Amidst all this, Mr Qamar’s statement that the PPP wanted all decisions to be made on the PDM platform, and the PDM should not be reduced to a PML(N)-JUI(F) show, may seem an indication that the PPP is not willing to jettison the alliance just yet.
The PML(N) and the other PDM components should take this to heart. True, at the end of the day parties will decide on making their participation in the alliance serve their own advantage, but at the moment, opposition to the government would seem to require unity. This is especially true as the PDM has to organize the parliamentary opposition, which would seem to require acknowledging one person per House as Leader.