Nawaz Sharif Not Interested In Any Deal, Says PML-N Amid Uncertainty About PDM’s Future
Amidst speculation about the future of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), it has become quite clear that the alliance is not going to last. Given that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is poised to retain their parliamentary presence and Sindh government intact, the PDM is more divided and weakened than ever.
The latest rumour dominating Pakistan’s political circles and current affairs discourse is whether PPP has reached a modicum of understanding with miltablishment and its consequences for Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N). Since the PPP has calculatedly secured higher payoffs inside the system, there is talk of the PML-N abandoning its aggressive ‘vote ko izzat dou’ narrative that aims to uproot the hybrid system, in a bid to carve out more political space. A source close to well-placed figures revealed that the distance between PML-N’s supremo and establishment kingpins had gone beyond the point of no return.
Stemming from this perception is the widespread speculation that Maryam Nawaz might be forced to retreat, while the party is led by Shehbaz Sharif’s conciliatory approach. It is being argued that a dose of reduced aggression and negotiations could increase PML-N’s chances of securing electoral victory.
Speaking to Naya Daur Media in the backdrop of these rumours, PML-N General Secretary Ahsan Iqbal said that Nawaz Sharif is standing firm in his stance and isn’t interested in ‘any deal or accommodation’. The former minister added that Nawaz believes the hybrid system is now fully exposed, rotten and will collapse. Ahsan Iqbal’s clarification implies the ‘vote ko izzat dou’ narrative and firebrand politics are likely to continue.
Speaking on PML-N’s political strategy, Associate Professor of South Asian Politics at University of Oklahoma, Dr. Aqil Shah analysed that the PML-N has burnished its image as a legitimate opposition party capable of challenging military hegemony over the state. “In addition to the bad economic situation, the symbolic power of ‘vote ko izzat dou” has been key to its political mobilization strategy in the Punjabi heartland. Nawaz Sharif has gone farther than any popular national politician in unequivocally questioning the military’s presumptions of impunity (by naming/shaming the generals responsible for the rigged 2018 vote) and has popularized the notion of ‘civil supremacy’ like never before,” he added.
When questioned about a possible reorientation in PML-N’s strategy, he went onto analyse that ‘any real or perceived compromise with the powers that be could seriously undermine the party’s credibility (if not necessarily its core vote bank), and lend credence to the skeptics’ view that its critique of the generals was never about constitutionalism but a ploy designed to extract concessions within the system.’
The opposition’s efficacy in sustaining a potent movement to dethrone PM Imran Khan was analysed by Dr Aqil in the following words ‘ I think the success of any democratic opposition (and its narrative) is contingent on its unified commitment to the core principle of making “democracy as the only game in town,” and its ability to apply sustained public and political pressure to create the space for achieving that goal.’ He, however added that ‘Unfortunately, the opposition has not been able to sustain the requisite momentum (e.g., long march abandoned). The two main parties are caught in a tragic “prisoner’s dilemma,” where distrust and uncertainty about each other’s intentions has put a premium on defection even though cooperation would ultimately benefit both.’ Dr. Aqil attributed the breakdown of PPP-PML-N relationship to self-preservation and political gain which have diluted their will to fight back together.
The writer is co-founder Future of Pakistan Conference and a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science.