Accountability process and political stability imperatives
Former president Asif Ali Zardari and ex-premier Nawaz Sharif are facing cases in various courts, mainly concerning financial and other irregularities.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Imran Khan keeps reiterating that he will not spare any corrupt element, no matter what the consequences.
A few days ago, the PTI government declared Mr Sharif as an absconder and approached the UK government for his extradition, a development that has raised political temperature during the rainy season.
The Islamabad High Court is scheduled to take up Mr Sharif’s appeal against his conviction in Al-Azizia reference on September 1. It was this conviction that disqualified the three-time prime minister, as a result of which the PML-N had to bring in Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the new chief executive of the country.
Also, on Sept 1 the IHC will hear the NAB’s plea against the former premier’s acquittal in the Flagship Investment reference.
Important PPP and PML-N leaders and sympathizers call cases against their party bosses baseless, instituted only to victimize them and their families.
Federal Minister Sheikh Rashid has repeatedly claimed that the former president and three-time former prime minister have played their innings and have no more role to play in politics. His utterances are given importance in political circles because of his links with the military.
The “chronic bachelor” of Rawalpindi who led about a dozen ministries in various setups over the past decades, Sheikh Rashid also claims that Imran and the miltablishment are on the same page.
To oust the PTI government at the earliest, opposition parties are bracing for a movement, the modalities of which will be decided at an all-party conference to be held in the near future.
The prevailing state of nerve-testing confrontation between the government and the opposition will continue till one side is defeated.
As for accountability process, nobody can deny its urgency, but an important aspect the PTI government and the NAB should not be unmindful is the role of national parties in the unity/stability of the country.
It’s an irrefutable fact that the PPP and the PML-N are the two major parties with bigger public following in Sindh and Punjab, respectively.
Efforts made by vested interests in the past to decimate the PPP by floating rival factions did not yield the desired results.
Mir Murtaza Bhutto – and after him his widow Ghinwa – could not dent the PPP despite all their efforts. Their party – PPP (SB) could not win even a single assembly seat across the country.
Rana Shoukat Mehmud, who had floated PPP (ZAB) also failed to get any following and seeing a bleak future for himself rejoined the PPP, apologizing to the PPP leadership.
Ms Benazir Bhutto’s secretary Naheed Khan and her husband Dr Safdar Abbasi have also failed to get any public response against the PPP leadership.
Whatever their reputation, it is Zardari and Bilawal who have a popular following in Sindh.
Benazir Bhutto’s younger sister – Sanam – has also thrown her weight behind Zardari and Bilawal, as a result of which their party is regarded as the real party of the Bhuttos.
As of now, the PPP is the biggest party of Sindh and no other party is in a position to defeat it.
What is PPP for the people of Sindh, PML-N is for Punjab. Many political leaders are with this party despite the fact that the Sharif brothers have different views on the role of the establishment in a democratic system.
For example, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif insists that there is no role for the establishment in a democratic dispensation. This is his opinion despite the fact that he himself was a “discovery” of the army and he remained in power in different capacities for more than three decades.
His brother Shehbaz Sharif, on the other hand, said in a recent interview that problems facing the country are so serious that political and military leadership would have to join hands to deal with them.
The significance of this statement cannot be underestimated as Shehbaz has been leading the party since the disqualification of his brother.
Maryam Nawaz is emerging as the new leader of the party. Although there are many in the party who are senior to Maryam by decades, they have accepted her as the new leader. She will be able to play a more effective role once she overcomes legal problems.
If Zardaris and the Sharifs are ousted from politics on the pretext of accountability or anything else, a vacuum would be created in Sindh and Punjab and no political force in the field will be in a position to fill it.
As of now, the PTI doesn’t appear to be able to replace the two parties in the two provinces.
Consequently, a Balochistan-like situation will emerge at the national level, which will not be a good sign for the country.
(In Balochistan, no single party has a majority and every time a number of parties have to join hands to form coalitions).
No country can afford to have Balochistan-like situation.
To avert this situation the PTI government and the NAB will have to find alternatives to the PPP and PML-N leadership before kicking them out.