OK, now that I’ve whined about the intelligentsia’s one sided portrayal of this whole mess, I would like to say that the Punjab assembly’s anti-media resolution is interesting in that it’s sort of a moment of truth for PML-N. Basically the PML-N of the late 90s which is represented by Senator Saifur Rehman going around raiding Jang group offices, imprisoning Hussain Haqqani, beating up Najam Sethi, etc. is up against the “modern” PML-N which stood by civil society during the long march. Unsurprisingly, PML-N has not emerged well from this moment of truth. On the other hand, it hasn’t done too badly either – I’m not sure why everyone is mocking Nawaz Sharif’s U-Turn. I don’t think ideological change is ever particularly tidy, and his messy U-Turn under pressure is certainly better than no U-Turn at all. Also another thing to remember is that the resolution was supported pretty much across the board in the house although the top leadership of all the parties are now denying it.
So we have reason to wonder given that PML-N may come to power in the federal government in the near future. It’ll be interesting to see the PML-N – a party whose leadership is derived mainly from ex-IJT types, i.e. a party with no ideological foundations for respect for the freedom of the press – handle the media’s criticism when it is in power in the centre. The question is, can they, despite a basic lack of tolerance in their political ideology, be cornered into doing the right thing by the unexpected consequences of their past opportunistic political stances? If so, that would be a wonderful thing indeed and one of the good things about having a splinter of the PML stick around long enough to actually have some sort of collective political history.