Marriages of convenience


There has been ferocious behind the scenes activity amongst all of the main parties regarding election alliances.  There are daily reports of meetings between major parties and alliances.  The fact that most of the parties are meeting with nearly all other major parties, it is very difficult to come to any conclusion regarding any specific alliance.  For instance the PML(Q) has been engaged in talks with the MMA and PAT, with both of these parties also in talks with PML(N), with PAT also in talks with the PPP and ARD.  Thus it seems all the parties are weighing up the odds and keeping their cards close to their chests.  Well one thing is clear to everyone that there are basically two camps from which the election will be fought, that being pro government and anti government.

The main party in the pro government camp will be PML(Q).  There are reports of MMA forming an election alliance with the PML(Q).  It seems difficult to conceive how a pro government party such as PML(Q) can work together, let alone form an electoral alliance with the MMA which has been bitterly opposed to Musharaf’s government.  Furthermore, the religious parties have never had a vote bank worthy of any concern, with the collective seats gained by them in the national assembly being no more than ten, during any term. The composition of the MMA is quite baffling in itself, in that Noorani was made its chief.  Noorani failed to win his own seat in the last general election thus it may not make sense why he was made the head.  It is opinionated in political circles that he has been given the top slot to attract the majority Sunni population as the other leaders in the MMA belong to the minority ‘Diobandi’ or ‘Shia’ sects .  With there being no chance of Noorani winning his own seat, he will no longer be required by the MMA after the October elections as the ‘Sunni vote’ would have already been cast in favour of the MMA candidates.  Well firstly, as Noorani is in his late seventies and considered to be way past his best, there is no guarantee that he will attract the so-called ‘Sunni vote’ and neither do the Pakistani electorate vote on a religious basis.  Although religious parties have never been successful in past elections, due to the intense anti-American feeling in the country the MMA can win the hearts of the Pakistani people due its anti American stance.  Whether the Pakistani people will trust religious parties and see the MMA as a viable alternative to pro-American Musharaf is a different story.

There are reports of the anti government camp forming an alliance with the main parties being the PPP, PML(N)  and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT). 

Although the three parties may not have seen eye to eye in the past, they all have a common agenda of stopping Musharaf from implementing a presidential dictatorship.  They have also realised that this can only be achieved if major parties with public support like themselves get together. 

The formation of an alliance between the three parties has also been reported by several newspapers. The reason being that the might of a military government cannot be defeated by any single political party.

Such election alliances of parties with conflicting views and ideologies are of course marriages of convenience, but are seen by many to be the only way of stopping Musharaf from implementing a presidential dictatorship.

Unlike the rest of the parties, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) has ruled itself out of any election alliance saying it will take the solo flight, relying on the ‘youth bomb’ to see it through.  Well, bigger parties like the PPP, PML(N) and PAT see it vital to form an alliance in order to combat

Musharaf which means they do not see it feasible to go it alone putting a question mark on Imran Khan’s decision to do so.

PTI like PAT was pro government, now both are opposed to Musharaf but they are taking totally different paths to the election.  PAT is busy in talks with all major parties such as PML(Q), PPP, PML(N) and the ARD regarding an election alliance where as PTI will take the solo flight.  Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri has always had the policy of forming an alliance with parties who have the same goal which is why he has lead and been part of the PAI and GDA.  The goal presently being implementing true democracy and restoring the sanctity and independence of institutions.  The meeting of PAT leaders with the leadership of PPP, PML(N) and ARD does indicate there be an alliance on the cards.  On the other hand PAT is also having regular meetings with the leadership of the PML(Q) which is keeping political analysts guessing on which way PAT will go.  The fact that both sides, opposition and PML(Q) are eager to form some sort of alliance with PAT, shows that PAT, surprisingly, is a very important piece in the alliance jigsaw puzzle.  The logical out come seems to be that PAT would form an election alliance with the PPP and PML(N), making seat adjustment with the PML(Q) and other parties.

With all the political parties being opposed to Musharaf, this has left the PML(Q) in a limbo.  As it is basically pro Musharaf but due to the anti Musharaf feelings in the country it has refrained from supporting the amendments packages.  It may be that it is thinking of joining hands with the MMA to win the anti government support.

Well which ever election alliance will materialise, it is clear that they will all be ‘marriages of convenience’, but that is the political necessity of the time which political parties have to come to grips with. If they fail to do so then this will leave the way clear for an authoritarian set up with Musharaf as its head.

Mr. Jawed Iqbal, is an independent writer and a political analyst. His articles appear in printed and electronic media of Pakistan.