Did PPP really handle the assorted marches ‘better’ than PML-N?

Published: August 13, 2014
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When the PPP was faced with the nuisance of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), no one had any idea about PTI or PAT’s position in the political universe of Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

There is no doubt that, on the face of it, the Zardari administration has handled the political crisis of Imran Khan’s and Tahirul Qadri’s previous marches much better than the Nawaz administration has so far. However, the constant comparisons that political pundits have made between the two situations are not only unfair but also erroneous.

The reason that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government was able to handle the situation ‘calmly’ was not because Zardari is some sort of a political mastermind. Contrary to what we would like to believe, the PPP’s response was not part of some strong commitment to a democratic plan or a political master stroke by the party’s leadership.

I see three key differences between the situation as it was during the PPP’s tenure and as it is during the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) time, which can explain PPP’s calmness and PML-N’s nervousness in the face of the proverbial storm.

Firstly, the political situation before and after the elections of 2013 is completely different. When the PPP was faced with the nuisance of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), no one had any idea about PTI or PAT’s position in the political universe of Pakistan. It was the first time that the country was transitioning from one democratic government to another, a situation so rare that it was excitingly impossible to predict any result with any certainty at all. This time, however, the PTI has established itself as a formidable political force with a loyal voter base, even after the avowedly disappointed voters who supported the PTI in the 2013 elections.

As for PAT, although they did not perform well in the election, they were still able to manage a fairly large number of people in Islamabad during their first rally. We now know the levels of loyalty and support for PAT and PTI, and also their ability to demonstrate street power. Furthermore, this time both PAT and PTI have decided to join forces, something that the PTI had categorically refused to do pre-elections.

Secondly, the PPP was pretty much at the end of their term when PAT mobilised itself while the Nawaz administration has barely made it through its first year. Even if the PAT had been able to dislodge the PPP government, a caretaker would have had to take over – something which was going to happen anyway and would have happened earlier than scheduled. The Nawaz league, on the other hand, has waited for its term for 10 odd years and is thus desperate to ensure that it is able to complete its five year term. This makes a significant difference to the way the two parties perceive the PTI and PAT shenanigans.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, neither the PTI nor the PAT threaten the core vote bank of the PPP, which is Sindh. By the time these dharnas and revolution marches started happening, the PPP was well aware that it had lost any chance it had of winning Punjab, which was the core focus of both PTI and PAT. Additionally, the fact that PML-N, PTI, and PAT share the same vote bank makes negotiations that much more difficult than it did for the PPP. Comfortable in that knowledge, it is then small wonder that the PPP didn’t bother to respond with anything other than calm.

This is not to defend the PML-N or their fascist, control-freak tendencies. As friend and journalist, Zarrar Khuhro, put beautifully in one of his tweets, the PML-N’s greatest talent so far has been to panic and in the process manufacture a political mess where there was none.

Given how huge a mandate the PML-N won in the 2013 elections and that it is not in a coalition government, it is amazing to see them so besieged! But, to say that the PPP is somehow better at managing political crises like these or that Zardari is some sort of a genius of a statesman are completely invalid statements. It was their callousness, not some intelligent leadership capability that made PPP ignore Qadri’s chants of revolution and Imran’s general belligerence.

This post originally appeared here.

Zainab.Imam

Zainab Imam

A journalist, on a hiatus to pursue a Masters in Public Policy at The University of Chicago. Gender parity advocate, urban policy enthusiast. She tweets @zainabimam (twitter.com/zainabimam) and blogs at gulaabjamun.wordpress.com

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Captain Obvious

    What have I just read? Maybe the break should be a permanent one.Recommend

  • YA

    The writer should look at the 5 years of PPP as whole and not just the PTI and PAT stint in isolation. This is not to give PPP any points on governance or to underscore the level of nepotism and incompetence they exhibit, but it must me said that they managed the assault from the establishment and the judiciary better than anyone could have expected, and did manage to complete the first election cycle in the our 67 year history. And Zardari should be given the credit for that. Lets not overshadow the facts to be different…….Recommend

  • Ali

    The writer analysis is defective and not based on facts. Instead of appreciating the patient and composed response of PPP, the writer has based her piece on the March 2013 environment. A look back on the entire 5 years constant assault and bashing from establishment, judiciary and particular segment of media would make the picture clear. Its the patient democratic attitude and democratic credentials and temperament that made PPP astutely handle all challenges, be it long marches, memo gates and PAT marches or day to day coalition issues. As a government magnanimity has to be extended to political forces and concessions extended for the interest of the country and strengthening of the fragile democratic system. Gullo Butt mind set unless changed shall disaster oriented no matter if applied at the end of tenure or at the start of tenure. Its the autocratic, monarchy mindset not the environment that has created this mess. Lets not distort the facts which majority acknowledges that Zardari is a mastermind in the political arena.Recommend

  • Ammar

    Gulaabjamun should be sent to the writer by Khurram Dastageer for this magnificient advocacy of PMLN. But she seem to have forgotten that for a very long time Mian Sahiban have been leading the charged mob which PPP is not doing at the moment. Both PMLN and the writer should be thankful. I dont think Mr. Zardari likes Gulaabjamuns :)Recommend

  • Waseem Sarwar

    “As for PAT, although they did not perform well in the election, they were still able to manage a fairly large number of people in Islamabad during their first rally”. They observed a boycott of whole election process and you can’t perform well in something if you are not participating in it. :)Recommend

  • Khalid

    The question should have been which party is more corrupt PPP or PML -N?Recommend

  • Iftikhar Ali

    Zardari is the only man who knows how to play with the opponents ballsRecommend

  • Junaid Jatoi

    She is forgetting many things for example a huge crisis like “Memogate Scandal” which was clearly designed for trying Zardari under treason case, coming out of that situation was very hard but Zardari managed to get rid of that crisis too.Recommend

  • Junaid Jatoi

    She is forgetting many things for example a huge crisis like “Memogate Scandal” which was clearly designed for trying Zardari under treason case, coming out of that situation was very hard but Zardari managed to get rid of that crisis too.Recommend

  • naeem khan

    excellent analysis but the writer should now prepare for a online murder by PTI trolls anything against the DEMIGOD is an abominationRecommend

  • http://aliwaqas.info Mark Edward

    Ouch. Seems like you summed it up! However, you forgot to mention Khant’s Hakoomat Hatao, Mulk Bachao campaign when there was a dharna by Khantians every night in Ramzan. And it was Zardari who broke the tempo of the first long march / dharna that was led by Aitzaz. ;) Too much angreyzi and very less insight into facts is very harmful indeed!Recommend

  • http://aliwaqas.info Mark Edward

    “As for PAT, although they did not perform well in the election, they were still able to manage a fairly large number of people in Islamabad during their first rally”…. Tribune has an editorial board, I dare say! PAT won 1 ( read: single) seat in 2002 elections that was vacated because of Qadri sab’s pursuit of Canadian Citizenship!Recommend

  • Sami ullah Baig

    I think the writer is making a mistake by just focusing on the PAT dharna in Islamabad. The PPP had to face a belligerent judiciary, a rabid media, the establishment and the political parties ( MQM was more of an opposition then coalition). And that too without having the full number of parliamentarians and needing help from coalition partners to complete the numbers. PML-N on the other hand was in far much better place but they are in this position.Recommend

  • Sami ullah Baig

    Absolutely right. I think the writer should do her homework before writing anything.Recommend

  • Khurram Rehman

    I donot agree with arguments put forward by the writer regarding Zardari not being a genius. However, i am in complete agreement about the subject: Zardari is a no genius.
    Take any crisis situation…
    1. Judiciary Restoration March: Was imposition of governor rule in Punjab a stroke of a genius? Had Zardari not done so, PML(N) will have never gone out so much in support of Judiciary. DidZardari not try to stop Long March. If not, why were Imran Khan and Shahbaz Sharif hiding in Islamabad on that day. what happened in the premises of Lahore High Court. And how did Zardari succumb to the deamnds once march moved on. Well it was just laying passive and accepting everything when nothing else remained. I guess one doesnot have to be genius to do so.

    2. Memogate Scandal: Zardari went to Abudhabi on excuse of health condition. And didnot return to Pakistan till matters cooled off. It was patience on part of Army and resolve of political parties to support democracy that saved him not any stroke of genius.

    3. Qadri Long March: Zardari could do nothing as he didnot rule Punjab at that time. 95% of the march proceeded through Punjab. Once 50k people reach islamabad you cannot stop them through force. He really didnot had any option. Plus he was about to go anyway so he didnot bother much. And most people donot realise, it was after PTIs decision not to participate in Qadri March and the press conference by opposition parties comprising Nawaz, Fazl, Munnawar Hassan, Achakzai and others that Qadri balloon did burst after all. And he tried to save face by signing a no worth deal with PPP Govt.

    Please some body let me know where was the Zardari genius anywherer in there?Recommend

  • Hassan Javed

    You forgot to mention the ACTUAL reason PPP didn’t do anything about the long march : They wanted to be political martyrs yet another time Recommend

  • Hassan Javed

    You forgot to mention the ACTUAL reason PPP didn’t do anything about the long march : They wanted to be political martyrs yet another time Recommend