Herald Exclusive: Divided they rule

PTI supporters during an anti-government protest rally in Islamabad on May 11, 2014

Opposition parties have hindered democracy in Pakistan by engaging in adversarial politics, instead of offering a credible alternative and holding the ruling party accountable. This behaviour, however, must be understood in the light of the wider political context in Pakistan.

The general election in May 2013 marked the first successful transfer of power from one elected civilian government, after the completion of its full term, to another elected government.

While the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) rejoices in the knowledge that its role as a ‘patient’ opposition during the previous government’s tenure has paid off, some parties in the current opposition feel that the PMLN won an ill-gotten victory in last year’s election.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has launched an anti-rigging campaign, claiming that election results were manipulated and that the “public mandate has been snatched.”

Leaders of PMLQ and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) met in London earlier in June and agreed on a ten-point agenda for protests against the government. Both parties claim the government has failed to deliver good governance or protect the rights of the poor. Sheikh Rasheed, head of his own Awami Muslim League (AML), has also agreed to support this alliance.

The unfortunate shooting by the Punjab Police against PAT workers in Model Town Lahore has added fuel to the fires already being lit by the opposition parties. The incident has further encouraged unity amongst unlikely allies.

The aforementioned parties altogether hold only 37 seats in the National Assembly. This leads one to speculate around the reaction of the largest opposition party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah, the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and a senior PPP leader, has stated that it is the democratic right of every party to protest government action which it considers wrong.

But are the opposition parties merely protesting to hold the government accountable?

Or are they gearing up to topple the government and derailing democracy by being overly confrontational?

Should we sympathise with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when he implores opposition parties to be patient, and let his government complete its tenure?

This article is an attempt to seek answers to these questions through a historical examination of the performance of opposition parties in Pakistan in five phases since 1970: the Bhutto years, 1970-1977; the Zia interlude, 1977-1988; the democratic interregnum, 1988-1999; the Musharraf era, 1999-2008 and the transition to democracy, 2008 onwards.

I will show that opposition parties have hindered democracy in Pakistan by engaging in adversarial politics, instead of offering a credible alternative and holding the ruling party accountable.

This behaviour, however, must be understood in the light of the wider political context in Pakistan. Unbalanced civil-military relations, rampant constitutional engineering, and confrontational relations between the president and the prime minister, have shaped the incentive structures of individual politicians – be they in the opposition or the government – to treat their role in parliament as a way to provide patronage to their constituency instead of shaping national policy.

The lack of issue-based politics coupled with the inability of the ruling parties to accept the rightful role of the opposition in parliament has inhibited the development of mature and responsible opposition forces in Pakistan.

The Bhutto years
After the loss of East Pakistan and General Yahya Khan’s resignation in 1971, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto emerged as the president and civilian martial law administrator. His party, PPP, won almost 60 per cent of seats in the constituent assembly.

The traditional political opposition to Bhutto comprised of powerful elite groups of businessmen, industrialists, landlords, bureaucrats and army officers. Landed elites from Punjab and Sindh propelled this opposition and founded the United Democratic Front (UDF) under the leadership of Pir Pagara.

The UDF represented the Muslim League factions, (Convention Muslim League, the Pagara Muslim League), the leftist National Awami Party (NAP), religious parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and the Pakistan Democratic Party (PDP).
Left to right: Chaudhry Fazal Elahi, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

This was an ideologically disparate group, united only in its revulsion for Bhutto and his politics. It also had little strength in parliament, and was rendered ineffective due to its internal divisions. The opposition, therefore, resorted to making contemptuous accusations against Bhutto to publically humiliate him.

Bhutto’s political strategy was to keep this opposition immobilised by exploiting its disunity. He also used strong-handed tactics to limit the political space available to the opposition parties to exist. For example, in 1974, he amended the Political Parties Act to legalise the dissolution of a political party for a treasonable offence. Under this act, he banned the NAP and imprisoned its leaders.

Not only did Bhutto ensure that he undermined the mass popularity of the opposition, he used the judiciary to selectively target their members. White papers issued by the government of General Ziaul Haq have documented the use of Bhutto’s Federal Security Forces to harass, abduct and torture opposition leaders.
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Bhutto’s political strategy was to keep this opposition immobilised by exploiting its disunity.
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Prior to the election in 1977, the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) was formed to oppose the PPP. Quite like the UDF, it consisted of nine political parties holding secular, leftist and Islamist views.

When eleven PPP candidates were returned to the National Assembly uncontested, even before the first votes were cast, the PNA accused the PPP of committing blatant electoral fraud. The alliance also boycotted the National Assembly election in Balochistan, and those for the four provincial assemblies.

As a result, the PPP handily won more than two-thirds majority in both the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies. Refusing to accept these election results, the PNA launched a countrywide protest campaign against what it deemed was an illegitimate PPP government. These protests escalated into intense street violence – brutal confrontations between protesters and security forces – and resulted in mass arrests of PNA workers.

The rare display of unity by religious party workers, students and political activists – financially supported by shopkeepers and traders – forced Bhutto to enter into talks with the PNA. But failure to reach consensus in a timely manner led General Ziaul Haq to launch Operation Fair Play and impose martial law on July 5, 1977.
Head of Functional Muslim League Pir Pagaro talking to media men at the Karachi Press Club in 1977

Military interlude under Zia

General Zia-ul-Haq reneged on his promise to hold elections twice (in 1977 and 1979) under the pretext that the process of accountability had to be completed, and Pakistan had to be put on a firm economic footing before a new National Assembly could be elected. During this time, he continued to impose martial law, banning all political activity.

The PNA had initially welcomed the postponement of elections because it was ill-prepared and fearful of Bhutto’s popularity among the masses. PNA’s own support base had dwindled after it partnered with Zia’s illegitimate military government. The alliance was also considerably weakened by internal rifts, resulting in its break-up. Only JI and Pagara Muslim League continued to collaborate with the Zia regime.

Another realignment of political forces, however, resulted in an alliance between erstwhile rivals - the PPP and some PNA parties including the JUI, Tehreek-e-Istiqlal (TI) and NDP. This alliance, formed in February 1981, came to be known as the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) and saw the military as its principle antagonist.

The MRD aimed at bringing an end to martial law, restoring the 1973 constitution, and holding parliamentary elections to transfer power to elected representatives. The MRD clashed violently, with the Zia regime in the province of Sindh and was suppressed brutally. Nonetheless, the protests, which had received international attention, made it difficult for Zia to rescind his promise to hold elections.

A woman activist of the PPP’s student-wing, the PSF, clashes with the police during a rally against Zia’s draconian laws, Lahore, 1981

Finally, in 1985, elections were held on a non-party basis, but not before the constitution had been amended to give the president the power to dissolve the National Assembly under Article 58, Section 2b. Furthermore, Zia waived the conditions that barred MRD politicians from participating in the elections.
In the absence of political parties, local influence, ability to provide patronage and links with the bureaucracy emerged as the deciding factors for an electoral win. The prime minister, instead of serving as the head of the government, emerged as a broker between the Official Parliamentary Group (OPG) and General Zia-ul-Haq. The party-less foundation for a weakened parliament meant that there was no real parliamentary opposition during this time.
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Both Khan and Sharif sought her (Benazir Bhutto) support on the issue - the latter needed legislative votes to rescind the amendment and the former needed to ensure the support of the opposition in case of a confidence vote against him.
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The MRD, which had opposed the Zia regime, was despondent with this turn of events. Despite incurring huge losses at the hands of the military regime, it was entirely bypassed in the civilianisation of the regime. It was further enervated by internal dissension. Many party cadres defected in order to contest elections.

Disillusionment among its ranks prevented the opposition from taking any imaginative initiative for having any role in setting the new rules of the game.
 The democratic interregnum
Benazir waves to the crowd from a bogie of a train during her 1988 election campaign

The return of parliamentary politics in 1988, although to be celebrated, was overshadowed by the legacy of 11 years of military rule and the constitutional changes made by the Zia regime. The “58 2(b) system”, legitmised through the Eighth Amendment, favoured the president by limiting the powers of the prime minister.

After the 1988 election, the opposition viewed the Eighth Amendment as a counterweight to the PPP as the largest party in the National Assembly. The dismissal of the PPP government in 1990 convinced the then opposition, Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), that it needed the president’s support and, therefore, the Eighth Amendment to fulfill its agenda.

Benazir Bhutto, in her role as opposition leader in 1993, shrewdly exploited the differences between President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the Eighth Amendment. Both Khan and Sharif sought her support on the issue - the latter needed legislative votes to rescind the amendment and the former needed to ensure the support of the opposition in case of a confidence vote against him.

In 1996, President Farooq Leghari, who owed his election as the head of state to Benazir Bhutto and had condoned the corruption and the misrule of her regime, was compelled to act against her to secure his own authority. Sharif, as the leader of the opposition, assured Leghari of his support if the president used his powers to dismiss the government. Hence, Sharif’s election in 1997 owed partially to Leghari’s presidential powers and administrative support in the electoral campaign.

Any accommodation between PPP and PMLN was inhibited by two other factors: First, the inability of mainstream parties to win absolute majorities necessitated the formation of governments in the center and the provinces with help from political parties that did not necessarily have the same ideologies or policy programmes as the two big parties.

The federalist framework further exacerbated this situation by giving the political parties regional identities – with the PPP seen as a Sindhi party and PMLN as a Punjabi one.

During her first term, Benazir Bhutto spent a huge amount of state resources to exert authority over the Punjab provincial government, which was led by Sharif. In return, the Punjab government played up regional sentiments and glorified Sharif as a proponent of Punjabi identity and interests against a federal government led by a Sindhi woman.
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Benazir Bhutto, in her role as opposition leader in 1993, shrewdly exploited the differences between President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the Eighth Amendment.
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Simultaneously, the mismanagement of Mohajir-Sindhi tensions undermined PPP’s coalition with the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), strengthening the opposition’s call for a no-confidence motion against Benazir Bhutto.

Although the motion was defeated, those years were a period of intense rivalry, demonstrated by rampant horse-trading and the opposition’s launching of Operation Midnight Jackal with the help of the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to overthrow the PPP government.

Nawaz Sharif as PM poses for a picture with the Pakistan cricket team that won the 1992 Cricket World Cup.
Secondly, ham-handed attempts to retain control over the resources of the state by the government gave the opposition parties enough opportunity to destabilise the government by publicly airing accusations of corruption, nepotism and horse-trading. In fact, the tussle between the IJI/PMLN and PPP took on the character of a personal vendetta between Bhutto and Sharif. Both parties also displayed their intolerance for each other by boycotting and disrupting National Assembly sessions, and through street agitation, including train marches and wheel jam strikes.

As ruling parties, both the PPP and the PMLN used the state apparatus to harass and arrest opposition leaders and activists and file corruption cases against them.

The skewed institutional division of powers and the immensely antagonistic nature of party politics during this decade was especially debilitating because it was exploited by the president and the army to perpetuate the 58 2(b) system. The president maintained total authority and the army retained the option to manage political affairs indirectly.

The Musharraf era
President Musharraf with coalition partners in 2002
General Pervez Musharraf’s imposition of martial law in 1999 led to the persecution of many senior politicians on corruption and sedition charges, thereby crushing both PPP and PMLN and rendering them virtually leaderless.

Sharif was indicted for his role in hijacking Musharraf’s plane and exiled to Saudi Arabia, while corruption charges forced Benazir Bhutto to reside in Dubai. Musharraf, therefore, succeeded in removing any threat of a meaningful opposition to his military rule.

In 2002, he began the process of civilianising his regime. He promulgated the Legal Framework Order (LFO) in August 2002, substantially increasing the president’s powers under 58 2(b) and in the appointment of governors, judges, chiefs of army staff and the election commission. He also facilitated the creation of PMLQ with the help of the ISI and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which armtwisted politicians from PPP and PMLN to defect and join PMLQ.

Despite these efforts, the 2002 election produced a hung parliament with PMLQ unable to win a bare majority. At this time, the anti-defection clause was temporarily suspended to let members of the opposition to cross-over to the governing party and add to its strength.

The PPP and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) formed the opposition in the National Assembly. For nearly a year, both parties vociferously protested against the LFO, and frustrated the government’s efforts to make it a part of the constitution.

Musharraf conceded to the opposition’s demands presented to him by the MMA, that he would relinquish the post of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and seek a vote of confidence for his presidency. The first concession was shrewdly circumvented by the government as Musharraf continued to serve as the army chief till December 2007.

Three important factors about government-opposition relations concern the wider political context at the time.

First, the legal procedure to ascertain the leader of the opposition was never followed by the Musharraf government. Although PPP was the larger party in parliament, the Musharraf government started to recognise MMA as the main opposition, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman as the Leader of the Opposition. Political analysts have commented that this was a deliberate attempt to confirm that radical Islamist groups were gaining political ground in Pakistan, thus securing American support for a military-led administration in Pakistan during the War on Terror.

Second, the MMA itself was an alliance of six religious parties divided by ideological, political and organisational differences. Their disunity, and therefore, ineffectiveness as opposition became apparent in Musharraf’s presidential re-election bid in Oct 2007.

While JI legislators were in favour of resigning and depleting the electoral college, JUI colluded with the ruling party to undo the impact of JI’s startegy Similarly, PPP also did not protest to Musharraf’s re-election bid because it was in secret talks with him for the promulgation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which would clear the party leaders from corruption charges.

Third, despite maintaining the fa├žade of being an opposition through protests, street agitation against the LFO, Women’s Protection Bill and declaration of Emergency in 2007, Islamist parties were never ideologically opposed to a military-led government.

For the first time in decades, these parties had tasted power by forming the provincial governments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan and were not going to squander this opportunity by destabilising Musharraf’s regime.

Also, JI, JUI and the military had shared interest in maintaining Pakistan’s status as an ideological state and to emphasise India as an existential threat. All this boiled down to one thing: while the parliament was reduced to a mere rubber-stamp for approving presidential orders, there was no real opposition to check the excesses of the government.
 Transition to democracy.
Prime Minister of Pakistan & President PML(N) Muhammad Nawaz Sharif taking Oath as Prime Minister from President Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari.

The 2008 election was held while Musharraf was still the president of Pakistan. It was nevertheless, contested by both PPP and PMLN though parties such as PTI, JI and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) boycotted the election.

Both PPP and PMLN returned to the political forefront after having signed the Charter of Democracy in 2006. Their cooperation for the good of a democratic Pakistan was viewed as a tremendously positive step, given the adversarial politics of the previous decade.

In an unexpected turn of events, erstwhile rivals PPP and PMLN formed a coalition government, united in their effort to remove Musharraf from power. After accomplishing this goal in August 2008, the two parted ways over disagreement on how and when to reinstate Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Being the second largest party in parliament, PMLN opted to lead the opposition. Later, in 2011, another realignment of interests occurred, when PMLQ and PPP entered into a coalition in the federal government, with Chaudhry Pervez Ellahi changing roles from the Leader of the Opposition to the Deputy Prime Minister of Pakistan; a position that does not exist constitutionally.

These developments notwithstanding, the 13th National Assembly proved to be an unprecedented forum for cooperation and political unanimity between the opposition and the treasury benches.

The landmark 18th Amendment changed, revised, deleted 97 articles of the Constitution (out of a total of 280 articles). Most importantly, it rescinded the 17th Amendment, devolved powers to the provinces and unanimously restored the parliamentary character of the constitution. Another important achievement of bipartisan consensus was the 20th amendment which paved the way for a consensus appointment of a caretaker government in the centre and the provinces to oversee future polls.

To its credit, the ruling party made an effort to provide the opposition with political space to carry out its functions. The appointment of the Leader of the Opposition as head of the Public Accounts Committee for the first time was hailed as a major step towards deepening the possibility of democratic oversight. Moreover, legislators from the opposition benches were elected chairpersons of parliamentary standing committees in accordance with their numerical strength in parliament.

The opposition, in turn, also behaved constructively in the parliament using appropriate means to scrutinise government actions. Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), an Islamabad-based independent observer of parliamentary and electoral activities, notes that PMLN asked 9,903 questions in the National Assembly, which is 62 per cent of the total questions asked in the house. PMLN’s share of the total Call Attention Notices moved in the House was 34 per cent. Of the 94 legislators who introduced different motions under the parliamentary rules, 49 belonged to PMLN.

PMLN remained committed to function as a government-in-waiting while the PPP government finished its full five-year term. But an International Crisis Group report (2013) notes that PMLN gave up the idea of forming a shadow government, claiming that the party’s members felt insecure over the choice of shadow ministers that could reveal the leadership’s actual cabinet choices after coming to power.

While PMLN did hold PPP accountable in parliament, it did not offer any counter-proposals, feeding into the perception that opposition parties in Pakistan oppose the ruling party for the sake of opposition, instead of taking legislative work seriously.

Even though the PMLN leadership claims to have maintained a conciliatory attitude to ensure the “survival of the system”, Babar Ayaz (writing in his April 1, 2013 column in Daily Times) has noted that the media described the PMLN negatively as a “loyal” or “friendly” opposition, cooperating with the treasury benches because of some underhand deal.

This kind of unconstructive critique from the media reveals that as a people we are unable to recognise the behaviour of a responsible opposition.
Coalition leaders meeting after Pervez Musharraf resigned in 2008. 
The above account of the historical role of the opposition in Pakistan serves to highlight a number of important trends.

First, opposition forces in Pakistan have been most active prior to and directly after an election. Before the election, opposition parties have formed grand alliances such as PNA and IJI, mostly discounting ideological differences for the short-term goal of dislodging the ruling party. This is a clear manifestation of expediency trumping ideological and issue-based discourse.

In the post-election period, opposition parties have not easily consented to the electoral results. Losing parties have always taken to the street, protesting the legitimacy of the elections. Unfortunately, given that elections have taken place under military regimes, or under caretaker governments formed by the presidents exercising authority under 58 2(b), there is some truth to these charges.

Once elected, opposition parties have set about to destabilise the government and bring about its downfall as rapidly as possible, under the pretext that it was illegitimately elected.

This especially holds true for the 1990s, when instead of holding the government accountable through oversight procedures or presenting the public with an alternative set of policies, opposition parties chose to support the president’s initiative, backed by the army, to dissolve the National Assembly and dismiss the elected government.

This undermined democracy because it abruptly interrupted the electoral cycle. It also created a perverse set of incentives that gave opposition parties an anti-incumbency advantage in a largely two-party system thereby limiting voter choice.
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The average politician is motivated by local issues and is disinterested in legislating on national issues. This politician also does not join a political party inspired by its programmatic agenda or ideology, but by its chances of winning an election.
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On the floor of the parliament, opposition parties have derailed government attempts to pass important legislation. This explains why rescinding the Eighth Amendment has taken more than two decades since it was enacted.

Instead of using questions, and other means of debate and deliberation, opposition parties have resorted to fiery rhetoric that has often degenerated into inappropriate behaviour, unbecoming of the country’s elected representatives. Outside the parliament, opposition parties have indulged in street agitation, mobilising mass support through rallies, long marches, sit-ins, or wheel jam strikes to protest against the government policies and actions.

In a sense, opposition parties do not break out of campaign mode. This is an observation made by economist Madiha Afzal, of the Brookings Institution, in an article (published in The Express Tribune on December 26, 2013) describing the modus operandi of PTI’s opposition. Not only are these agitations displays of grassroots support for the opposition but these also, importantly, show a lack of public support for the government’s agenda. Moreover, the government’s inability to effectively quell these protests and instead resort to mass arrests, lathi-charge, use of tear gas and in some extreme cases straight firing on protestors, only highlighing its incompetence in maintaining law and order.

While protest and agitation in and of themselves are not negative, and often have been warranted, I take issue with the instability they create in a country where law enforcement agencies are institutionally weak.

They also create the perception of irreconcilable differences between the government and the opposition that can only be resolved through drastic action such as regime change.

Finally, mobilising the masses purely through negative rhetoric and no actual discussion of policy alternatives, only serves to halt debate and hinder action that could potentially alleviate the real problems of governance experienced by the citizens.
D-Chowk in Islamabad before Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) rally against alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections, May 2014.

Hence, at first glance opposition parties have behaved in a way that appears to be detrimental to democratic transition in Pakistan.

Motivated by expediency and short-term gain combined with an inability to concede a loss in election, they purposefully create instability through their protests and agitation.

Are we being unfair in our expectation that opposition parties be mature and constructive critics of the government when the roots of democracy in Pakistan are fragile and underdeveloped?

Opposition parties, just like the ruling parties, do not exist in a vacuum and have been shaped and moulded by the prevalent exigencies of the political system.

Repeated military intervention and manipulation of the Constitution, through inclusion of amendments empowering the president’s office, have reduced the parliament’s institutional supremacy as an organ of the state that is supposed to check the executive actions, and legislate.

This has had two detrimental effects:

First, the parties in government have been tremendously insecure and have entered office on a defensive footing. They have been unable to insure the rights of an opposition to exist, or provide the intelligence it needs to function as a watchdog, and criticise government’s policies and actions without fear of reprisal.
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Opposition parties have behaved in a way that appears to be detrimental to democratic transition in Pakistan. Motivated by expediency and short-term gain combined with an inability to concede a loss in election, they purposefully create instability through their protests and agitation.
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Past governments have blatantly misused state resources to undermine opposition forces in Pakistan. The parliament is ideally supposed to embody the diversity of opinion within society. In order to safeguard this pluralism, the opposition is an indispensable component of democracy. It should be allowed to offer voters a credible alternative to the government in office.

This, however, should be done by offering counter-proposals on policy instead of directly hindering government action and placing a gridlock on the political process. Second, clientelism has become entrenched as an organising principle of political exchange in Pakistan.

My interviews with politicians prior to the election in 2008 revealed the primary incentive behind contesting an election was to gain access to state resources in the form of development funds so that one may deliver patronage to the constituents.

This harks back to the nonpartisan election in 1985. The then Prime Minister Mohammed Khan Junejo instituted the five-point programme, which allotted development funds directly to the members of the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies.

The popularity of this programme encouraged subsequent PPP and PML governments to adopt similar programmes such as the People’s Programme (1988-1990; 1993-1996) and Tameer-e-Watan Programme (1990-1993).

This policy gave credence to the idea that legislators are not just elected to represent the interests of the people in a legislative assembly through deliberation and policymaking and through the enactment of laws. Rather, the legislators also fulfill the responsibility of development.

If one takes this argument to its logical conclusion then being in the opposition means not having access to development funds, thereby, creating an urgent need to return to power, so that one may maintain, if not increase, local influence within a constituency.

This further implies that the average politician is motivated by local issues and is disinterested in legislating on national issues. This politician also does not join a political party inspired by its programmatic agenda or ideology, but by its chances of winning an election. Political parties, in turn, are interested in selecting those candidates to run on their ticket who have enough political clout to sway the vote in a given constituency.

As a result of this dynamic, issue-based politics has never taken root in Pakistan.

Political parties exist as electoral vehicles to mobilise public opinion through charismatic leadership or by promising material incentives. Although party manifestos are disseminated, clientelist politics does not necessitate that political parties actually follow up on their policy platforms. Therefore, to expect that in the absence of issue-based politics, opposition parties will serve as government in waiting and form active shadow governments is unrealistic.

The public and media also need to have a stake in the evolution of the opposition. Despite what precedent suggests, cooperation is not always the result of shady political deals made in smoke-filled rooms.

The relationship between government and opposition parties in the 13th National Assembly should be lauded; PTI’s engagement on domestic policy issues should be taken seriously, and the right of the opposition parties to oversee the government’s performance should be protected. The formation of grand alliances to topple the government, dharnas, sit-ins and long marches and mobilising voter sentiments on non-policy issues needs to be discouraged.

Opposition forces in Pakistan have a long way to go before they can serve a mature and constructive role in parliamentary politics. I, however, have argued that the behaviour of the opposition is based on incentive structures, which have been shaped by a wider political context that suffers from a deeper and more systemic malaise.

Ruling parties and society, therefore, also need to be committed in recognising the rights and responsibilities of the opposition forces in the country.

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