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Watch the battle lines before speculating on the victor

By Khawar Ghumman 2016-07-22
AFTER shrieking for months for merciless accountability of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members following the disclosures made about them in the Panama Papers, his opponents have abandoned the parliamentary route to achieve the objective.

Last week the negotiations between the parliamentary opposition and the PML-N government on the Terms of Reference of an inquiry commission that the harried prime minister had created to buffer the gathering storm collapsed.

Rather than giving in to the combined opposition`s terms, the ruling PML-N felt too sure of its comfortable majority and the support of its allies like JUI-F and PkMAP in the National Assembly to weather any storm.

Imran Khan`s PTI, which had been long thirsty for the blood of `the ruling oligarchy`, tool< no time to announce that it would take to the streets from August7toforce theissue.

But the question is whether the other 10 parties in the opposition alliance formed to demand the accountability of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will join the battle or will PTI be fighting alone as it did in 2014? Even the PPP, the arch rival of the PML-N, has been mute on agitating in the streets though its attacks on the PML-N have become shriller lately.

Until now the opposition blocwhich includes MQM, Jamaat-i-Islami, ANP, Qaumi Watan Party, BNP-A, Sheikh Rashid`s Pakistan Awami Muslim League, PML-Q, Pakistan Awami Tehrik and Majlis Wehdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM) have put up a united stand against the prime minister.

On Tuesday,they allsattogether at the PTIinitiative and reiterated their demand of probing the Panama Papers` revelations, and rejected any further negotiations with the government on the subject.

Since an explosive situation could emerge if they do join hands in confronting the PML-N government in the streets, Dawn spoke to a number of opposition leaders about the prospect of building up pressure on a confident-looking PML-N.

From the off-the-record discussions with them it emerged that although majority of the opposition parties were keenly interested in free and fair investigations of the Panama Papers, not everyone was willing to take to the streets.

PPP`s young chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has been harsher in his criticism of the prime minister and his family but did not betray any plans for protest demonstrations.

Indeed, every anti-Nawaz Sharif party has its own axe to grind.

As for the PTI, it has been unequivocally hostile to the PML-N rule throughout. `We have waited and will continue to wait for other political forces to join us because the government will never agree for a meaningful inquiry into the Panama Papers` revelations about unethical, even if legal, financial dealings of world elites,` said a senior PTI lawmaker who also holds an important party position.

These revelations `only vindicate the money laundering the PTI leadership had been accusing the Sharif brothers of for long. Why should we miss this opportunity to hit the government hard?` he argued.

An important PPP leader on the other hand noted that pursuing ajoint opposition strategy against the Sharif government is `a challenging task` because every political party has its own understanding of the issue.

`In the PPP, we are for a probe starting from the prime minister, but not for launching an anti-government movement in a hurry,` he said.

An ANP leader and lawmaker said others might see achieving some political mileage by staging protest demonstrations, but his party didn`t believe in confrontation.

`We always prefer to adopt a constitutional way instead of hitting the roads,` he said.

Even though the MQM is reputedly inherently violent in its politics, it is shy of street protests.

Given the situation in its Karachi stronghold where it feels more hunted than hunting, the party does support investigating the prime minister, however.

Smaller parties lil
Observers expect the opposition parties`line up to become clearer in the next few weeks when each party will have to match its anti-government stance with action.

The PPP will especially be under such pressure if its leader Bilawal wished to wrest the control of the anti-government sentiment from Imran Khan.

In any case, it will be interesting to watch who emerges victorious in the coming political battles PM Nawaz Sharif or his opponents.