A game of chance

Punjab’s senate elections ended in a whimper. The lead up to the election was marked with plenty of hue and cry, angry statements, fears of votes being traded for money and a presidential reference that was sent to the Supreme Court.

Strange points were raised, such as a secret ballot that would be traceable and proportional representation was questioned. In the end, however, all members were elected unopposed. Not a single ballot paper was required. Enemies sorted out all matters between themselves.

A more pertinent lesson could not have been derived from the development. Political matters need not be taken to court. The wiliness and slyness that is a necessity in any political arena do not belong in the hallowed halls of law. In fact, they sully the sanctity of judicial houses.

Blots on our history, such as Justice Munir’s Doctrine of Necessity, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s death sentence and Musharaff’s LFO have left deep marks. Future judges tried their best to wash out the stains. They did fade, but did not disappear.

Political chances suit only politicians. If after all the bad blood and trash talk that the opposition and government indulged in before sitting down to settle Punjab’s senate polls, anyone believes that either would not give or take an NRO, is incredibly naïve.

What happened in Punjab can be summarized in one sentence i.e. acceptable names got through, unacceptable ones didn’t. Quetta’s Abdul Qadir is one of the lucky few who have been approved of. When PTI Balochistan members objected to his ticket, Qadir switched over to Bap and became a member overnight. Zahoor Agha was brought in as a salve to soothe bruises but had less longevity than a tissue paper. He recanted right after his papers were filed, abdicating the polls in favor of Abdul Qadir. The chosen one is not selected by party workers, after all.

If not a fluke of chance, then what else can we call the (re)rise of former Premier, Yousuf Raza Gillani. At the center of the political battle that will be waged in the capital, Gillani told Maryam Nawaz that he knew of PTI lawmakers who will give him a vote in return for assurances of PML-N tickets in 2023. Consider that the three parties at the center of this particular smorgasbord are the biggest three in the country. The seekers are from the ruling PTI, the givers are from PML-N and the brokers of the deal are the PPP.

And consider how the Punjab settlement, such as it is, was authored by the PML-Q. With an increased likelihood of both the vote and the note disrupting proceedings, Pervez Elahi took it upon himself to manage affairs and bring them to a conclusion acceptable to everyone. He contacted sympathizers in all the major parties, settled the issue and in the process, managed to get a seat for PML-Q’s Kamil Ali Agha.

As for the contest between Gillani and Hafeez Sheikh, well, it might not be of much surprise to anyone if a few pawns here and there switch sides. This is not unprecedented. Here, parties are broken up and formed anew over a period of just 24 hours. If Gillani wins then of course the doors to a no-confidence move will be opened. And that will end the impression of government and establishment being on the same page. The million dollar question is, will that day finally come to pass?

Imran Yaqub Khan

The writer a senior journalist and host of GNN programme 'View Point'

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