Within the Pakistan Democratic Movement coalition, an internal crisis is brewing and the days ahead call for certain tough choices that will have far-reaching repercussions. Even when they say they share a similar democratic aim, the problems are very different for each opposition group in the PDM, as are the individual roles of the leadership on the political spectrum.
The JUI-F, which has the least to lose, takes the hard-line stand that it is appropriate for all PDM legislators to resign. However, in both the national and regional legislatures, the PML-N has large numbers, however, unlike the PPP, it is not part of a coalition of either province and will thus be less affected in the event of mass resignations.
It also bears the brunt of the divisive accountability campaign of the government and faces growing strain with the arrest by NAB of Khawaja Asif and the ongoing detention of key figures of the party such as Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz.
It seems that the PPP, among the PDM parties, is isolated in its refusal to withdraw en masse. It has strongly signalled its hesitancy and left the final decision on the issue to its central executive committee and not the coalition by advising PDM members to tread carefully and assess the implications of resignations from each perspective.
The idea of the party to meet with experts on constitutional law is true, as resigning from the assemblies is an unprecedented move that may have significant political consequences.
Resignations before the Senate elections will offer an open ground for the ruling party to ensure a majority in the upper house, which, unlike the National Assembly, is a continuing body. The PPP’s concern of what will happen if the government called for by-elections is also one that could be necessary to remember for all PDM member parties since a by-election could take place, as difficult as it seems, as the government shows no signs of relenting.
Interestingly, though on one day the parties communicate in one voice from the same forum and reject rift negotiations, they make conflicting decisions the next day. The divergence of opinion between Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, some say, may be an explanation for this, as the former president may wish to leave space for the establishment to build bridges.
This discrepancy, expressed in individual priorities and shown in the response of each party to the problem of resignation, signals uncertainty within PDM ranks. Although it is not clear if it will effect the ‘long march’ on the capital, which is part of the final-stage plan of the coalition, it does not bode well for the alliance’s future.
For now, if it wishes to prevent disintegration, the PDM needs to resolve its inner problems, and take its next steps on the basis of reason, not emotion.