Politics of agitation


National and independence days are occasions when nations exhibit closing of ranks, and celebrate landmarks with an impregnable unity. Even political adversaries stand shoulder to shoulder in a show of national solidarity and unity on national moorings and objectives, sending a loud and clear message to the world that those celebrations have national ownership.

What a shame that in our land of the pure no such tradition exists. The political parties, particularly those in the opposition, and their leaders are so obsessed with politics of self-aggrandisement and hate against the sitting government that they even avoid attending Independence Day celebrations.

The flag-hoisting ceremony is a case in point where the opposition was conspicuous by its absence this Independence Day. There is something terribly wrong with their thinking and they need to revisit it.

Regrettably, our opposition parties, particularly the PTI and the one-man party of Sheikh Rasheed, used the occasion to up the ante against the government at a time when in view of Indian atrocities in Kashmir, India’s openly hostile stance towards Pakistan, its clandestine involvement in acts of terrorism in Pakistan, the indigenous scourge of terrorism and the recent horrendous terrorist attack in Quetta it was imperative to stand united.

What was needed was to send a strong signal to the enemies of the country that as far as national causes and fighting terrorism was concerned, there was complete harmony among all the political forces. No doubt in a political and democratic dispensation, opposition parties have the right to differ, criticise and even protest against the policies of the sitting government but while doing so they are supposed to hold the national interests above their own narrow political ends.

The PTI, the PPP and other parties who are in the middle of the anti-government campaign in the backdrop of the Panama leaks, do not have a strong case as even their own credentials do not give them any moral leverage against the government. Most of their leaders also have a soiled past and some of them also are stated to own or have owned offshore companies, including Imran Khan.

There are credible indications that they may not be able to bring the people out on the streets in numbers that could be cause of worry for the government. The thin attendance in Imran Khan’s rally in Rawalpindi, where he was at his usual best to hurl unsubstantiated allegations at the government and government institutions, does suggest his waning popularity.

Imran is no more the leader who appeared on the political horizon in 2011 as a revolutionary and a third potent political force by obtaining more than 70 million votes. He himself is responsible for this down-slide. He has surrounded himself with people whose democratic credentials and financial integrity are not enviable enough to act as a source of inspiration for the people. His own politics has revolved around his impulsive propensity to hurl false allegations against his opponents and state institutions as he did during his sit-in, effectively rebuked by the judicial commission.

Imran’s frequent somersaults on taken positions have not endeared him well to the people and to most of his supporters. This point was amply vindicated in the by-elections for the National Assembly and provincial assembly seats, local bodies elections and the recent polls in Azad Kashmir, where he spearheaded a vigorous campaign against the PML-N and its government.

These developments prove beyond an iota of doubt that people have rejected his brand of politics and are no more prepared to back his street agitation. But he fails to learn. He is as stubborn today as he was when he embarked on the anti-government campaign in August 2014, notwithstanding the setbacks and political reversals that he had to face along the way.

The reality is that, notwithstanding the allegations by Imran and other opposition parties, the PML-N remains the most popular political entity. People have confidence and faith in its ability to winch the country out of the quagmire it is stuck in. Its three years of governance have to some extent been able to change an ambience of despondency and despair into vibrant hope due to the successes achieved against terrorism and law and order problems, and above all improvement in the economic situation of the country.

Imran ostensibly thinks that politics is like the game of cricket where stubbornness and aggressive postures are considered as rewarding virtues. He is terribly wrong. Politics is about flexibility and the spirit of accommodation, traits that he does not possess and even seems not interested to adopt. He could have made a mark on the political landscape by sticking to his original script and manifesto but his lust for power had the better of him.

Imran fell victim to conspiracies woven by anti-democratic forces which also used Qadri as a pawn in their chess game. He will find it very difficult to wipe off the stigma of the rebellious actions and violence that he and his brother Qadri exhibited, not only to the Pakistani people but also to the entire world which watched live the attack on the PTV headquarters, the parliament building and the building of a media house that Imran considered hostile to his party.

He has wasted three precious years of his political career on inconsequential issues. He now must focus his attention on the 2018 elections and try to use the forum of parliament for his political philosophy and reform agenda.

Pakistan has a very strong and vibrant media which has extended unprecedented coverage to his political activities and continues to follow him wherever he goes. The media is a good enough forum in addition to parliament to spread his message among the masses.

As far as the PPP is concerned, there is a very strong perception among the masses about the corruption of its top leaders, including Asif Ali Zardari, who many believe was responsible for the decline in the fortunes of the party. Their credibility is at the lowest ebb, more so in Punjab which used to be the bastion of the PPP’s political power. The party is also not in a position to draw large crowds to the streets.

The PPP, therefore, also needs to understand that its revival depends on its positive contribution to national causes rather than its attempts to bring down the government.

The writer is a freelance contributor.