12 years ago, Asif Ali Zardari had astounded traditional power brokers in the country by securing his finger on the power button. After all, he was someone disliked by so many for fighting court battles on a long list of charges (ranging from corruption to even murder).
Today, his extraordinary rise to the high perch of the grand opposition alliance is just as surprising. If this does not tantamount to pure ambition, what would?
When the opposition parties had raised a joint call for the head of PM Imran Khan, they could easily be dismissed as a spent force. Numerous crises brewed within when it came to a unified strategy. With hardliners JUI-F and PML-N calling for mass resignations and a “decisive” march to Islamabad, the PPP was finding it difficult to carry on with its conspicuously soft agenda of in-house change. In the words of Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, his party wished to do everything through a “democratic, constitutional and lawful procedure.”
However, in strode Zardari Sr with his usual political–some may say, self serving–masterstrokes. Gradually picking up the crumbs of the alliance banner, he persuaded other parties to drop their resignation demands. Further, temperature also seems to have dropped over plans for a showdown in the capital. Winning over PML-N’s heated reservations regarding by-elections and the upcoming Senate polls, the former president convinced the PDM to contest. Given the recent tilting of the polls in their favour, Zardari has not wasted much time in plucking this feather as his political victory. So much for team effort!
The cherry on the top was across-the-board support given to his party’s candidate for the Senate seat in Islamabad: Yousaf Raza Gillani. Nawaz Sharif and the rest are mistaken if they cannot see where Zardari has comfortably made his bed: right above their heads. There are already rumours of the kingmaker using the opposition parties as another chip on the bargaining table to trade favours for himself. This vote of no-confidence that Gillani is said to lead as head of the Senate is thought by many to be another backchannel deal with the forces that be. And he might even succeed given his previous inclination to employ every trick in the book may it be horse-trading, buy off investors with political favours or reshuffling seats of powers like a deck of cards.
PDM’s determination to rattle Islamabad’s corridors is probably much ado about nothing as far as other parties are concerned. Unable to see the woods for the trees, all leaders are simply following Zardari’s directions in all matter. Their blind trust in his political wisdom has made them stick hard to Bilawal’s House script so much so there remains no doubt in him being their “supreme leader.” It can only be hoped that flocking around the PPP’s pole as political pygmies does not come back to bite the parties (especially Nawaz Sharif) in their crusade for democracy.
There is no denying that Maryam Nawaz was off to a great start with her fiery speeches and filterless public interactions. Yet, her journey has moved back a gear; paling in front of Zardari’s politicking. The speeches are still there, but now they sound nothing more than plain noise. With Maryam being used as a political megaphone and her father’s aggressive strides against the establishment reduced to an utter mockery, what is to become of the lion party in the coming days?
Zardari’s formula to garner PDM’s approval has worked as per his plans until now. Whether he continues down this road just as smoothly or is up for a deadly deadlock with his allies would spell the next chapter of this endgame! *