Old film being re-enacted with new faces

Now Imran has replaced Benazir and Syed Murad Ali Shah Nawaz Sharif

LAHORE - The situation after the 2018 elections is increasingly becoming similar to the one after the 1988 elections, which establishes that the political leaders on both sides of the aisle learnt nothing from the experience of the intervening three decades. And there’s little hope for the things to improve in the foreseeable future.

At present the role then played by Benazir Bhutto has gone to Imran Khan and that of Nawaz Sharif to Syed Murad Ali Shah.

As things are moving it won’t take long for the two sides to fully re-enact the 1988-90 episode. The following should elaborate the point.

Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Karachi for a few hours on Monday – and the Sindh chief minister was not present to receive or see him off.

The premier also presided over a meeting about the Karachi problems in which PTI and other coalition partners were there. But the CM was conspicuous by his absence.

Now the Sindh governor has been quoted as saying that there was no request from the CM for a meeting and that he could meet him by making a request.

On the other hand adviser on law and environment Barrister Murtaza Wahab has said the CM will meet the PM whenever called.

Provincial information minister Saeed Ghani says Sindh’s chief minister will write to the prime minister to highlight the issues of Karachi and the rest of the province after the former was refused an audience with the latter during the premier’s visit to the mega city.

“Both prime minister and provincial chief minister are constitutional positions, and the former should have met the latter to find out Sindh’s issues and ensure their solution,” Saeed Ghani told reporters.

Is it not surprising that the prime minister did not meet the chief minister during his rare Karachi visit? Was such a meeting not necessary for the prime ministe r to get first hand information about Sindh’s problems and the assistance the centre could offer?

Expediency demanded that the PTI leadership should have arranged the meeting even if, hypothetically, PPP chief minister was reluctant to shake hands with the premier.

The PPP is going to join the anti-government long march being organized by the JUI-F. A hand of friendship with the PPP leadership at this stage could have persuaded the leadership to review their thinking. This was the political requirement of the PTI to have more friends and fewer foes.

Also, such a gesture would have established the tolerance the prime minister has for his political rivals.

Even for the sake of better working relationship between the two rivals such an interaction was imperative.

But egoistic mindset of the prime minister leaves no option for the PPP to remain in the opposition camp, no matter what the consequences. This means now the PPP would do whatever other opposition parties decide against the government. Political temperature will go up further in the times ahead with no one in a position to predict the final result of the government-opposition clash.

Now let’s recall the situation after the 1988 elections.

The 1988 elections were won by the PPP as a result of which Benazir Bhutto became the prime minister, Islamic world’s first woman to occupy this seat. (Her mother Nusrat Bhutto was appointed as senior minister, father-in-law Hakim Ali Zardari the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee).

Mian Nawaz Sharif became the chief minister as a result of what Benazir Bhutto labelled rigged elections.

She wanted to make Farooq Leghari the chief executive of the country’s most populous province. But when her party failed to get the required numerical support, she chose to appoint the DG Khan’s feudal as federal minister for water and power.

Mr Sharif appointed Husain Haqqani, a known evil genius, as his adviser.

This was the period of worst confrontation between the federal government and the Punjab government. It was mostly Mr Haqqani who gave the Punjab government new ideas to take on the centre on one pretext or the other.

During this period whenever prime minister Benazir Bhutto planned to visit Lahore, then CM Nawaz Sharif went on a visit to some distant city providing him enough justification not to receive her.

It was during Mr Sharif’s chief ministership that the Punjab government came up with a plan to set up a provincial bank, provincial TV, provincial airline. The idea was to give an impression that the Punjab government would prefer to have its own facilities instead of relying on national assets.

The writ of the federal government was challenged on every available opportunity.

It was also perhaps a unique incident that a federal minister (Mukhtar Awan) was not allowed to enter Punjab because of his involvement in a case. To avoid arrest he ran his ministry from Karachi.

The consistent confrontation with the centre brought the political stature of Mian Nawaz Sharif at par with Benazir’s. And it was for this reason that the industrialist-turned-politician became the prime minister as a result of the 1990 elections.