LAHORE - Some of the latest moves by the PML-N on the political chessboard have brought the PPP and the PTI closer together, thus providing them a common ground to launch a joint offensive against the government.
The two parties, which came close to blows before the May 11 elections, are now finding themselves on the same page on certain issues only three months after the elections. The controversy over presidential elections, issuance of contempt notice to Imran Khan and the recent move by the ruling party to make its own interpretation of Article 158 of the Constitution (which provides for fair distribution of natural resources among the federating units) are some of the issues over which the two otherwise arch rivals have the unanimity of views.
Besides, the two parties have a similar stance over alleged rigging by the returning officers in May 11 elections. The PTI is also planning to bring out a white paper with proofs of rigging in the days to come.
The first sign of unity between the PPP and PTI was witnessed on the occasion of presidential elections when the ruling PML-N went to the court unilaterally to seek the date of its choice for the polls. Imran Khan had almost decided to join the PPP to boycott the polls, but this did not materialise because PTI’s presidential candidate Justice (r) Wajihuddin was not willing to withdraw his candidature.
Issuance of contempt notice to Imran Khan by the apex court was another incident which incited the PPP to stand with the PTI. PPP’s Secretary General Latif Khosa even offered legal aid to Imran to fight the case.
On Sunday, Khosa came up with another statement in support of the PTI chief. “Contempt notice to Imran Khan is a wakeup call and the parliamentarians across the divide should get together and clearly define the limits of the circumstances liable for issuing judicial contempt notices, failing which, they would be putting the future of democracy at stake as a consequence,” he maintained.
He also recalled that Contempt Ordinance 2002 promulgated by General Musharraf did not exist at the moment because it was never sanctified by the Parliament and therefore there was dire need for the Parliament to legislate on the subject sooner than later clearly defining its dimensions while guaranteeing freedom of expression and speech as the top most consideration.
He maintained that the impression of fiddling of the judiciary in the political domain would inevitably lead to the tension between the judiciary and the politicians and more accurately between judiciary and the people which would not augur well for the administration of justice.
The PPP leader warned that liberal use of issuing contempt notices was fraught with dangers for the continuity of the political process.
He pointed out that maximum number of contempt notices had been issued to the lawmakers and politicians since the restoration of the November 2007 judiciary that had, to an extent, undermined the enabling environment correspondingly hampering the desirable growth of participatory democracy in Pakistan.
The most recent statement by Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi who called for a change in the gas-sharing formula, has provided yet another opportunity to the PPP and the PTI to make joint efforts to thwart this move by the PML-N to deprive smaller provinces of their due share of natural resources.
The PPP is in power in Sindh and the PTI is in control of the KPK, the two provinces which produce major chunk of gas and electricity. The federal minister in his statement has hinted at curtailing Sindh’s share of gas by making his own interpretation of the said article. The same may apply to KPK which produces more electricity compared to other provinces.
The minister has maintained that drafters of the constitution only wanted no discrimination against domestic consumers of a province when they made it part of the constitution.
“It is unfair that CNG is available for vehicles in a gas-producing province while fertiliser plants are closed down in another province due to non-availability of gas,” he argued to justify his stance.
The PPP has termed it a move to deprive the smaller provinces of their rights on the use of natural resources in accordance with the constitution. Opposition Leader Syed Khurshid Shah said such attempt will be resisted by all the political parties belonging to smaller provinces. The PPP, which has decided to submit an adjournment motion in the National Assembly to agitate the issue, also intends to contact all opposition parties including the PTI to put pressure on the government.
It may be recalled here that it has been a corner stone of the PTI’s politics until the elections to keep itself aloof from the two major parties - the PPP and the PML-N - to establish its credentials of a third political force in the country. Imran Khan has been criticising both the parties holding their leadership responsible for the mess the country was in for the last several years. But the things are not the same any more. The PTI is swiftly moving closer to the PPP.