Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif and PPP chairman Bilwal Bhutto Zardari have vowed to jointly give the government a tough time over the budget while charging the PTI administration with making false claims about the country’s economic condition. The two maintained that in the presence of an all-time high poverty rate, inflation and unemployment no sane person could claim Pakistan had a booming economy. The PPP chief said that his part and the PML(N) would jointly bring a no-confidence motion against the deputy speaker of the National Assembly. Mr Zardari also promised his party’s full support to the Leader of the Opposition’s efforts to prevent the budget from getting passed in the National Assembly, indicating that the two parties would continue to work together till a vote is taken on the budget. What happens after that is anybody’s guess.
The PPP and PML(N) are old frenemies. Their rivalry encompasses more than three decades. Even when better sense led the two parties to jointly sign the Charter of Democracy or enact the 18th Amendment, mutual antipathy continued to simmer among the leaders and followers of the two parties. In 2009 President Zardari imposed Governor’s Rule in Punjab for two months, making Governor Salman Taseer the head of the provincial setup. In 2011 Nawaz Sharif took the Memogate controversy which had triggered a confrontation between the PPP government and the military leadership to the Supreme Court, regretting it later.
The PTI government is not falling anytime soon. There are meanwhile important issues like media freedom, preservation of human rights and independence of judiciary where the opposition needs to take a joint stand. The opposition is also required to keep a check on excesses committed by the government and to expose its shortcomings. Both the PPP and PML(N) have opposed the use of EVMs but have yet to forge a consensus on electoral reforms to end rigging and bring down election expenses that bar the entry of middle class candidates in the National Assembly. The rivalries between the PPP and the PML(N) have taken toll of the PDM which once looked like a formidable opposition alliance. Unless the parties put life into the alliance, the government will succeed in turning the National Assembly into a rubber stamp.