Irrespective of the Senate election outcome, democracy will be the loser

March 9, 2018 Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , Pakistan , POLITICS

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Imad Zafar



Finally Pakistan’s invisible forces, after failing to stop the senate elections, have now sanctioned the alliance of Asif Ali Zardari and Imran Khan to maneuver them. The members of PML-N who changed their loyalties during the onslaught of Zardari and the establishment, which resulted in the demise of the PML-N provincial assembly, are likely to go for chairmanship with the backing of both. This actually tells the state of affairs in Pakistan, where all efforts are focused on depriving the PLM-N, the largest party in the senate, of bringing in their own chairman.


The fight to assert authority on policies and control democracy through the ‘puppet politicians’ is certainly weakening democracy. In fact it is weakening the federation as the fight between the institutions has turned uglier. The politicians are selling their votes and loyalties for monetary gains and invisible forces are seemingly pulling the strings from behind curtains; it seems that the only loser in this ‘game of thrones’ will be the state of Pakistan itself. The new conspiracies are being hatched to discredit democracy and this time sadly the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is on the wrong side of history as they are lending their support to the invisible forces.


As far as Sharif is concerned, he may not be the perfect man for democracy but at this point in time he is the one bearing its flag, the way he has fought the battle thus far being unprecedented. So will he be able to again defeat the invisible forces by bringing his own party man or colleague from his allies as chairman? It is actually not about the slot of chairmanship, but as to whether the pro democratic forces will be able to win this battle or if the invisible forces and their pawns prevail this time.


But watching the Pakistan Peoples Party align with the invisible forces and promoting a culture of ‘horse trading’ is the sad part of this fight. The party who were famous for their struggle against the establishment, purely to seek power, have taken a u-turn, unaware that this will inflict further political damage.


The way Zardari has sidelined Farhatullah Babar and Raza Rabbani is proof that he is happy to lend his support to the invisible forces in undermining democracy. Babar and Rabbani are the two names who are respected across the country among democratic and progressive forces. Their contributions in the upper house of parliament are impeccable and the way they always stood for democracy is praiseworthy. There is a consensus among all democratic forces in Pakistan that these two gentlemen have always acted beyond the party affiliations and were vocal for democracy and human rights at a time when all other so called champions of democracy preferred to remain silent. Farhatullah Babar in his farewell speech in the senate, expressed his reservations on the role of the judiciary and the invisible forces and was of the view that democracy had been undermined. Babar did not even hesitate to criticize his own party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, by saying they had compromised the sovereignty of parliament.


So when all the chips are down and even the PPP are aligning with the invisible forces, Nawaz Sharif has a tough battle ahead. Sharif will not want to be pushed to the back foot by losing the chairmanship of the Senate, as winning this would give him a moral boost as well as an immediate victory over the establishment. The question arises as to why the invisible forces which toppled his government in Baluchistan will never let it happen.


There are assumptions from Imran Khan and other immature analysts that if Sharif somehow wins the battle in the senate, he can even amend the Constitution before the next election. Or what if he brings in new legislation that puts the military and judiciary under accountability? Or what if he introduces a change in the process of appointing judges and their tenure through constitutional amendments? These assumptions in reality are illogical. Winning or losing the position of chairman in the senate does not allow nor stop Sharif from amending or bringing changes to the constitution, as amendments or new legislation require a majority vote in both houses, not the chairmanship of the senate.


Sharif has the desired majority in the National Assembly but by toppling his provincial government the invisible forces have already achieved the desired result of not letting Sharif win. Had Sharif’s provincial government not been toppled in Baluchistan and his party members not pressurized or bribed to change loyalties, Sharif would have been enjoying the majority in the senate and only then these assumptions would have been correct. It seems that Imran Khan, the analysts in favour of him and the invisible forces need to do a little research on the rules of making or amending legislation. The battle is not about stopping Sharif from amending the constitution as he is already prevented from doing so; it is more of a psychological battle now.


If Sharif wins he will be able to convince his supporters and party members he has prevailed once again and if he can bring the senate chairman of his choice then he can easily win the coming general elections. This will not only consolidate his party position but he will be successful in getting his party intact. On the other hand if the pawns of the invisible forces somehow manage to bring their own chairman it will create a doubt in the minds of his party members and they may consider changing political party in the next general election. If the pawns lose the battle things will go the other way and many members from the PTI and PPP can think about changing their loyalties and joining Sharif’s PML-N.


The mandate was hijacked the day the Baluchistan provincial government was toppled, as Sharif keeping his party and vote bank intact is the biggest challenge right now and if he can somehow achieve this he will prevail in the next general elections. A chairman senate slot is therefore solely a gimmick that can attract his voters and party electables. On the other hand Asif Ali Zardari and Imran Khan both know that if they can bring their man as chairman of the senate, they will be able to successfully exploit the electables from Sharif’s PML-N, and as a result, dent his vote bank.


Both Khan and Zardari are playing the roles of pawns. The fact still remains that the game is never won by pawns. The winner will be either Nawaz Sharif or the establishment, the pawns will get nothing from it. Ultimately it will be democracy that suffers the worst consequences in this battle.





Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar is a journalist based in Lahore. He is a regular Columnist/Commentator in newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, political, policies and media related think tanks.

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