Mar 6, 2009

A different tune

The manner in which politicians change colours never seizes to amaze. After its offensive against the PML-N floundered, with the party even now holding a comfortable majority in Punjab, the PPP has set out on a reconciliation bid with Nawaz Sharif. Asfandyar Wali and Maulana Fazalur Rehman have held a detailed talk with the PML-N chief and assured him that they opposed governor's rule in Punjab and are keen to end the discord. As would be expected, Mr Nawaz Sharif's tough terms for reconciliation tell of a man speaking from a position of strength. He has demanded restoration of the Punjab government and also of the deposed judges.All this comes against a backdrop of increased instability in the country. The whispers of contacts between the PML-N and powerful figures in khaki must have reached the ears of key power-holders in Islamabad. Indeed, there is talk of increased panic within the presidency. The long march looms just days ahead. The bid to thwart it by establishing mobile courts has backfired. While Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer continues his aggressive banter, the first days of his rule have brought a terrible terrorist attack in the heart of Lahore. He seems also to have failed to win the support needed to form a PPP government. One wonders how the debacle in Punjab is being looked upon in Islamabad and whether Taseer is considering the possibility of resignation.The PML-N has emerged stronger than before. There is more open hostility in the air than at any previous time since the February 2008 polls. The rather desperate attempts at reconciliation now on make the presidency seem rather foolish. If this was to be the outcome, then why was the ugly confrontation begun in the first place? All it has done is to weaken democracy, expose the leadership as a group interested only in accumulating power and demonstrate that no one in charge seems capable of any kind of coherent thinking. While the PML-N is now talking rather magnanimously of favouring accord and harmony, it will naturally extract its pound of flesh in exchange for any new deal. In the meanwhile, all kinds of new complications have been added to the political jigsaw and we still cannot tell what the picture will finally look like.

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