Grand Trunk Road

In defence of PML-N

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PML-N’s in big trouble these days with the blame for the security situation in Lahore being placed directly on them. It’s blamed for patronizing militant groups in the by-elections in Jhang, looking the other way at anti-ahmadi hate speech, in some cases even sponsoring it, and even not being able to respond appropriately to the Jinnah hospital attack. Moreover it’s being blamed for being in denial and reacting defensively to allegations that it’s soft on homegrown militancy and also for being too to blame RAW.

Now it’s hard to be too sympathetic to PML-N’s woes because in every case the attacks are justified. Where one can have some sympathy is the fact that these attacks have been timed to achieve certain political benefits to each of the other groups involved. For example, Rana Sanaullah’s ties with sectarian terrorists were highlighted even though as he kept pointing out (and got mocked even more for), these ties were the rule rather than exception to politics in Jhang. Kashif Abbasi did a great show in which he passed around pictures of Salmaan Taseer at a PPP rally where a Sipah-e-Sahaba leader Rao Javeed Iqbal actually endorsed the PPP candidate and also a picture of Sheikh Waqas Akram attending a political event with leaders of Tehreek-e-Jafria. (The history of Sheikh Waqas Akram’s family is quite interesting – I believe he’s the nephew of the influential urban Jhang politician Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal. Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal initially had the support of SSP but after a falling out he was assassinated by them after which his family has swung completely the other way and despite being Sunnis are now allied with the Tehreek-e-Jafria.)

So anyway, the moral of the story is that iss hamam main sab nangay hain, although I don’t believe in that there is no black and white so we are all gray nonsense. Salman Taseer != Rana Sanaullah. Salman Taseer may be hypocritical but Rana Sanaullah is the genuine article. Despite that, I do feel a lot of sympathy with PML-N’s position. Their entire political comfort zone is capable of being eroded by a few well-timed bomb blasts going off in Lahore. That’s their achilles heel and they know it and there’s nothing they can really do about it except half heartedly commit to weeding out terrorists in Punjab. Many people may be feeling a sense of schadenfreude at the collapse of PML-N’s political capital but I don’t. I don’t see anything good coming out of the weakening of both Pakistan’s major parties. Ayesha Siddiqa argued in military inc that the downfall of the Pakistani political class has always been its eagerness to collaborate with the establishment against itself and the PPP would be stupid to fall into this trap.

This is where Zardari and Rehman Malik’s politics of reconciliation come into play. I firmly believe that they are not in the same class as Salman Taseer and I hope PPP exercises some discretion. Anyway I am probably reading too much into this situation and PML-N will soon be back to chortling over PPP’s impending demise with its journalist and judge friends with some moronic facade of a liberal cause rallying civil society behind them. The thing, the politicians should remember what the establishment is capable of and stick together.

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