Is PTI on its way out?
An important news channel known for speaking the language of the powers-that-be presented a detailed programme on Wednesday evening to inform its viewers that a new political party is being launched that will be joined by estranged elements belonging to different parties.
It was claimed that the new party will be a “good news” for such people.
Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, it was said, might be one such leader although he had said in an earlier TV interview that at the time of elections he could consider the option of joining the PTI.
The question is whether the country really needs a new party. If so, which party (parties) will be affected by the emergence of the new entity.
Apparently, the report about the new party should be matter of serious concern for the ruling PTI. It is clear indication that the time for the PTI is over, irrespective of the claims that it will get another term after the next elections, due to be held in 2023.
The new party will be reminiscent of the launching of the PML shortly after the takeover by Gen Pervez Musharraf.
He had overthrown the PML-N government in October 1999 – and the Supreme Court while validating the ouster had given Gen Musharraf three years to set things right.
Since Gen Musharraf had no plan to quit power at the end of his three-year deadline he decided to launch a party – Pakistan Muslim League – with Mian Muhammad Azhar, a former Punjab governor, as its president.
Mian Azhar, an industrialist-turned-politician, was once very close to the Sharif family. And it was because of their closeness that during his first term as prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif appointed him in 1990 as the Punjab governor, a coveted position that the shy politician could not even dream of.
However, when then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed the Nawaz Sharif government in 1993 on account of differences with the prime minister, Mian Azhar also quit as the constitutional head of Punjab to express solidarity with the Sharifs.
The step taken because of sincerity and loyalty was not liked by the Sharifs for political reasons.
They disliked it as they wanted him to continue to hold the post to get information about the future plans of the bureaucrat-turned-president.
Coming back to the original subject.
Mian Azhar stepped down as the PML president, paving the way for Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain – who has been at the helm since then.
The name of the party was Pakistan Muslim League. The suffix Quaid-i-Azam is used by the media only to distinguish it from other factions. In the Election Commission of Pakistan’s record it is just the PML.
Estranged leaders from the PML-N and PPP joined the PML and thus became part of the Musharraf setup. (The PPP rebels had set up a forward bloc to escape legal consequences of changing the party).
When Gen Musharraf outlived his utility the game plan changed and the PPP was brought to power as a result of the 2008 elections, held three months after the 2007 schedule, due to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
The victory of the PPP reduced the PML to a skeleton. Leaders who had joined it so enthusiastically started parting ways with it.
They rejoined the PML-N as the Sharifs were back from Saudi Arabia - three years before the end of the deal.
The Sharifs were supposed to stay in the kingdom for 10 years, but the return of Benazir Bhutto to Pakistan ahead of the elections (scheduled for 2007) provided them a justification to come back to Pakistan the same year.
As a result of the 2008 elections the PPP returned to power. The PML-N, making a complete departure from its past rivalry, helped it complete its mandated term of five years. Then Mr Sharif got the third term.
The gist of all this is that perhaps the time for the PTI is going to be over. And it is for this reason that the idea of a new party has been floated.
The shape of things to come will be clear in the times ahead.
But floating a new party will not be in the national interest.
Likewise, no national interest will be served if estranged leaders of various parties are herded into the new entity.
The country needs stronger parties.
At present the PTI, PPP and the PML-N are the major parties in the field and all efforts should be made to strengthen them.
Causing defections from them to make the proposed new party viable will serve no useful purpose.
Winning public support for a new entity at a time when the society is deeply polarized to the grassroots level will not be an easy task.
The poor standing of the parties like the ANP, National Party, BNP, MQM, JUP, Jamaat-i-Islami and JUI despite long years in the field substantiates the point.
The fate of the new party – if at all launched – will be no different from that of the PML launched by Gen Musharraf for vested interest.