The whistle of general elections has already blown in Pakistan and the date of the big day is still awaited; a number of political figures are out in a restless search for new political masters who could assure them triumph in polls and lucrative offices in next government. Democracy-loving foreign readers need not worry as loyalties of locally influential politicians in Pakistan change at the spur of the moment for the sake of changing interests.
Two days ago, eleven members of the Assembly of Punjab, Pakistan’s biggest province, en masse joined the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz group (PML-N) which rules the provincial government. These legislators belong to the two largest parties of the ruling alliance of the federal government, nine from Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and two from General [retired] Pervez Musharraf’s political crutches, the PML-Q.
The escape of these from the government’s camp was a big shock to the ruling alliance which is already facing stiff condemnation from all corners of the country for performing miserably in last five years, bringing massive bloodshed in terrorism and suicide bombings, the spiraling price-hike of essential commodities, unemployment, suicides due to poverty and above all enforcing the U.S. agenda.
This “wholesale” of loyalties reflects moral bankruptcy and opportunism of politicians, yet more of it would come in coming days. These turncoats told the media the same old repeated rhetoric that their former parties failed to come up to the masses’ expectations and worked against their manifestos which forced them to join new masters in an effort to solve people’s problems.
Optimists among us believe the masses have come of age to see through to the actual reasons why politicians desert their parties; because they lacked opportunities to make big and quick money, which was the prime reason they had joined those parties. Or, they had no chance of getting a party ticket to contest elections, or they had little chance of winning elections because their parties had become unpopular.
In this deadly game of power, many among the opportunist politicians belonging to the dynasties ruling Pakistan for the last 66 years, be it democracy or military dictatorship, have lost hope in their dreams of reaching the throne this time. Interestingly, the man who crushed the dreams of the ruling politicians was none other than the lawyer of President Asif Zardari representing him before the High Court hearing a case against the president for violating the constitution by holding both public and political offices at the same time.
Over the last five years, President Zardari had been accused of violating the constitution and the norms of parliamentary democracy by also keeping the office of co-chairman of PPP, which he assumed temporarily after assassination of his wife Benazir Bhutto in 2007, since her son Bilawal was only 19 and could not legally become chairman of the party. Thus, Zardari relegated the office of president to that of a party head, and indulged in clash of interests in violation of the law.
In an attempt to avert a likely verdict against the president that could deal a deadly blow to PPP just ahead of elections, his lawyer and former Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan, Wasim Sajjad, came up with a novel plea before the court. But this plea acted as a boomerang, hitting the ruling party right in the head.
Wasim Sajjad, who is a senior politician of PML-Q, told the court that the PPP whose co-chairman is Asif Zardari and chairman is his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is not a political party but “a private association” or non-governmental organization (NGO). He said PPP is not registered with the election commission as a political party and is neither eligible to contest coming elections nor it had contested the previous elections.
One wonders if president Zardari and the battery of his lawyers actually knew what a ridiculous plea they were going to take before the court to justify his holding of two offices. This statement not only came as a drone attack on PPP members but also appeared to close all political roads for the 24-year old Bhutto family scion, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who has just returned from Oxford to rule the country by taking the reins of family dynasty, the PPP.
Political burial of the PPP
This statement became political burial of the PPP, 45 years after it was founded by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and headed by Benazir Bhutto till her death. Now Bilawal could not hold any political activity from the PPP platform, make speeches or issue statements, since NGOs can’t be registered as political parties under the law.
It is a fact that Benazir Bhutto and her party men did not contest 2008 elections from PPP platform since they contested from the platform of Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), a paper organization headed by a submissive PPP loyalist MP Makhdoom Amin Fahim, they created overnight to dodge former military dictator Pervez Musharraf’s strict implementation of constitutional requirements that all candidates must be honest, upright and clean from corruption and conviction.
Both Benazir Bhutto and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif were in exile and facing disqualification after becoming convicted of corruption and other crimes. Nawaz Sharif, convicted in a plane hijacking case, surrendered party presidency to his brother Shahbaz Sharif to save its candidates from disqualification. In other words, PPPP was like fake paper companies created to receive massive kickbacks in government deals to evade the law and punishment.
Democracy in Pakistan is the other name of owning the country through family dynasties to plunder public money and national wealth. The scions of two big families which can rightly claim to be among the top richest in Asia, are ready to take charge of “family businesses;” Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Assefa of the PPP and Hamza Shahbaz and Salman Shahbaz of the PML-N, and Moonis Elahi of PML-Q. While poor masses have neither a role in democracy nor do they own anything except poverty, hunger, killings and suicides.
This time, the ruling and opposition parties have made constitutional consultations to form the election commission to conduct coming elections and the caretaker government to supervise them. One can easily predict the results of coming elections. The same dynasties will come to power to continue “the family businesses.”
Mansoor Jafar is Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based in Islamabad. He can be reached through email: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter: @mansoorjafar