What PM Nawaz Sharif fails to realize? – Nawaz Sharif’s paradigm of Pakistani Politics is flawed and is still based on his understanding of Pakistan he witnessed or interacted between 1985 and 2007. He thought hard about his choices when he was in exile in Saudi Arabia and concluded that he has failed twice in controlling the outcome of Pakistani politics because as soon as he exerts control he is confronted by Pakistani Army that has a mind of its own on national issues. What he unfortunately did’not confess to himself was that his style of governance and his understanding of issues may also be lacking. So he concluded that he does or could do great job but is unable to complete it because military is very ambitious and gets in his way. He has sold this idea pretty well; many or most Pakistani liberals also sincerely believe this.
Anyway that is not my point. What is important is that based on this less than genuine understanding of Pakistani politics and challenges, Nawaz concluded that he can confront military and push them back by developing a compact with Benazir of PPP. This paradigm was his basis of COD of 2006 and All Parties Conference of 2007 etc. And this is why he supported Zardari after 2008 elections – to keep military in check and also allowing him to share spoils of politics with Zardari. This is what Imran refers to as Muk Mukka or deal between Nawaz and Zardari.
However what Nawaz did not understand was that parliamentary system as conceived by British works or survives on the basis of a genuine opposition that shares a belief in the fundamentals of the state but has genuine differences as how to achieve those goals. But Nawaz and Zardari compact used opposition as a notional reference point as a cosmetic affair for a willing and uncritical west that wants stooge governments in Islamabad for their own reasons. Their combined real opposition was military.
All three poles of the Pakistani politics (Zardari, Nawaz and Army) needed United States for their ends and the US wanted to keep military in check and under pressure (because military is fiercely nationalistic unlike the Egyptian military) by supporting first Zardari and later Nawaz when they found out that Zardari has lost total utility. But Nawaz – though he shared power with Zardari as his partner against the military – also kept on selling PMLN as an opposition and an alternative through News/Jang and GEO and Ex-CJP Iftikhar Chaudry’s strong alliance with Nawaz also kept PPP under severe pressure and in continuous negative publicity as well. This arrangement coupled with Zardari’s total lack of interest in governance of any kind totally destroyed PPP as a political force.
2013 exercise of Elections (sham like all Pakistani Elections have been) was to continue the Faustian bargain agreed in 2007/2008 but the problem is that this political structure was constructed on the premise that PPP will serve as the opposition. Unfortunately as a result of the operationalization of the compact which Nawaz & Zardari had PPP has ceased to exist in a physical sense. For all practical purposes PPP has been replaced by PTI. However PTI has not been allowed its due role in the system created by the elections of 2013. Nawaz still thinks that by playing around administratively he can continue till 2018 with this huge hole or deficit of political representation where his genuine opposition – ie PTI – is not represented inside the system. But his actual paradigm of PMLN Vs PPP has collapsed and he is not grasping that unless he accommodates with PTI now, the way he had with PPP in 2006-8 onwards and brings them into the political system as dejure opposition (through Judicial Commission or Mid term Elections) challenging him then he won’t be able to govern. The sooner he realizes that the better it will be for him and for all of us.