The departure of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) from the National Alliance came as a shock especially when the PAT chairman attended the NA meeting with the president the day before announcing his decision. Well Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri emphasised on an amicable departure from the NA with no grievances or ill feeling on his part or the NA. The reason for leaving the alliance according to Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri was the failure of the General and European councils of the party to ratify the decision of the CWC on joining the National Alliance. The reasons being that the party considered the role given to PAT in the alliance, was not consistent to its size and political standing, especially with the major positions of president and general secretary eluding PAT. The benefit to be gained by PAT by joining such an alliance was unclear to many. Although Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri insisted the sole reason on leaving the NA was due his party’s willingness to do so, he di! d shed light on the fact that the promises made to him on how the NA was to develop did not materialise. The specific promises he referred to in his press conference were regarding the alliance increasing in number to over a dozen, with confused messages being passed to him regarding the formation of the NA leadership.
Well from a neutral point of view it seems as though the NA never made any inroads in getting itself established or ready to fight the general election. There were many suspicions and questions flying around about the NA’s peculiar formation and stature. The PML(Q) was also tipped to join the NA at a later stage but that also never happened and always looked unlikely. It is now clear that PML(Q) will be taking a solo flight as it has made it clear that it will not be joining any Grand National Alliance nor joining hands with any other party. Baring in mind that both the PML(Q) and NA were allegedly formed and are supported by the government, it raises t! he question of why the government has formed two different entities which are apparently both fully supportive of the government. Especially when they will not be merging to form a Grand National Alliance. There are several proposed theories on the reasons behind the formation of the NA existent in various political circles.
One of them is that the aim of the NA was to box in various parties so that they could be curtailed and bound, making the way clear for the PML (Q). Well, as the NA is an election alliance, member parties lose their independence to a great degree as they are now bound by the rules and regulations set down by the NA. A prime example of this is the dissatisfaction of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and consequently its departure from the NA. Thus, PAT’s open declaration that the NA was trying to limit its role supports the apparent claim that the NA was formed to deliberately curtail member parties.
Regarding the PML(Q), with all member part! ies of the NA ceasing to have independent roles and having to adhere to NA policy which, apparently was not to oppose the PML(Q) then the claim that the NA was clearing the way for the PML(Q) would be justified.
Another proposed theory on the formation of the NA is that it was merely created to give Farooq Laghari a suitable platform to promote himself as an able politician as his Millat Party is not a large enough party to achieve such a purpose. Well, although Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi is the president of the NA it is clear to all that he was given the slot due to the inability of member parties to agree on any one else, or as PAT would put it, he wasforcefully given the slot to deprive PAT from gaining the post. Well there have been statements of Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri in the press over the past couple of weeks saying that his party will not be allowed to be used as a step ladder by anyone. May be these were clear hints that he was aware of this hidden strategy of using memb! er parties to promote Farooq Laghari placing him in a position to be inducted into the next government.
Another theory is that the government is working on a multidimensional plan with many contingency measures being taken into consideration. As part of this plan it is said that Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has been deliberately kept out of the NA so that the government can turn to it if need be as a contingency measure.
Well the departure of PAT from the NA has been a visible setback for the government as Maj. Gen. Ihtishaam Zameer, chief of the political wing of the ISI, has been sacked primarily due to the departure of PAT from the NA and the failure of the PML to unite, which were both government sponsored projects. Such a major step by the government proves that the above mentioned theories may have truth in them. The sudden departure of Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi to London has been as questionable as his arrival. He probably thought the NA has now lost any impotence it had, thus, apparently abandoning it.
Well obviously PAT thought long and hard on leaving the NA but finally took the decision believing it to be in its best interest. The options available to PAT on its future course of action seem to be three-fold. The most viable and attractive option would be to form an election alliance with the PML(Q) as was indicated by Dr Qadri in his press conference! . Well both parties did announce an election alliance following the local elections but nothing productive has materialised mainly due to PAT joining the NA, as stated by PML(Q) sources. Well it is clear that the PML(Q) is the government’s first choice especially after the shocking revelations of senior government officials instructing Nazims to fully participate in the PML(Q) election campaign. The formation of such an alliance would all in all depend on the willingness of the PML(Q) but as it is widely perceived in the public, the PML(Q) is the governments puppet, thus depriving it from their support. In order to ensure its victory in the election, the PML(Q) will need to form such election alliances. PAT seems to be a favorable option as it claims to have a decisive vote bank. The second option available to PAT would be to form an election alliance with opposition parties. Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri has repeatedly said that he will prefer to be in the opposition rather than a gove! rnment, which is not giving PAT its due share in power. Currently the opposition seems to be leaderless as leaders of both the PML(N) and PPP are in self exile. Thus, PPP and PML(N) workers and supporters desperately need a leader who can lead them to success in the October elections. So the proposition of leading the opposition is a tempting one for Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri, as everyone is aware of the progress of the Pakistan Awami Itihad (PAI) under the leadership of Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri. The third clear option available for PAT is to take a solo flight, making seat adjustments in every constituency according to the local political scenario. The recent co-operation between Baigum Abida Hussain and Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri in their respective seats is clear evidence of this strategy already being in operation. It seems as though such co-operation and seat adjustments will play a major role in the coming elections especially for PAT.
Whether PAT has gained or not on leaving the NA, t! he government on the other hand will be counting its losses as PAT’s departure from the NA concludes the government’s failure with regards to the NA. On the other handgovernment plans regarding PML(Q) and the unification of the PML have all but failed. Both of these developments have raised serious talk within government circles that the elections will be postponed by a couple of months, as the government’s plans in maneuvering its desired entities into power have suffered severe setbacks. The course which PAT decides to take will clear the air of uncertainty and confusion regarding the elections and the post election setup. Time will judge whether PAT’s departure and the consequent failure of the NA, is in fact ‘another nail in the government’s coffin’.
Mr. Jawed Iqbal, is an independent writer and a political analyst. His articles appear in printed and electronic media of Pakistan.