LAHORE: When Sardar Ayaz Sadiq was contesting on NA-122 (Lahore) last month after being de-seated by an election tribunal, all parties were opposing him. The PTI and the PPP had put up their candidates against him and parties like Jamaat-i-Islami, the PML-Q, the PAT and Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen were supporting the PTI candidate. In other words it was the PML-N versus the rest. Still, Ayaz Sadiq defeated his rivals, although the margin of his victory was reduced to just 2,400 votes compared to his margin of about 9,000 in the 2013 general elections from the same seat.

But yesterday when he contested the election for speaker for a second time, a totally different picture emerged. This time all parties backed Ayaz Sadiq, isolating the PTI’s Shafqat Mehmud, the only challenger left in the field after the ruling party had persuaded the other candidate – an MNA from FATA - to withdraw. The PPP and the Jamaat-i-Islami were also among a number of parties which are either declared or undeclared allies of the PML-N, and supported the ruling party candidate.

The PML-Q, which is a staunch opponent of the PML-N and is also spearheading efforts to unite all anti-PML-N groups, sought other parties’ support for Ayaz Sadiq to get him elected unopposed. But, interestingly, the party legislators did not turn up in the house at the time of voting. A man of average IQ will certainly find it difficult to understand this “visionary” strategy. What was witnessed at the time of polling has exposed the duplicity of our parties and raised a number of questions about the real opposition and the kind of role it is expected to play in the future. For example, was these parties’ opposition to Ayaz Sadiq in the October 11 election as MNA unjustified? Or their support to the same man for re-election as speaker was a departure from principles?

Whatever arguments these parties offer in the defence of these two contradictory positions, they have established that they have no principles to adhere to and can change their stands to serve their political interests. That Ayaz Sadiq would get re-elected as speaker was a foregone conclusion in view of the numerical strength of the ruling party and its allies in the National Assembly. But the way various parties extended the (unwanted) support to the PML-N man is simply disappointing and unbelievable.

This certainly doesn’t mean that the writer is against the idea of unopposed election of the NA speaker. It is only an attempt to point out the contradictions between the policies and actions of various parties. Since the PPP is opposed to the PTI for obvious reasons, it could not be expected to support the latter’s candidate. But it is an open secret now that the PPP is like an ally of the PML-N, despite the fact that its leaders claim to be the “real opposition”.

Cooperation between two opposition parties is understandable, but the “real opposition” supporting the government’s candidate is rather difficult to digest. The PPP is not expected to play the role of opposition party even in the future because of the noose the govt is tightening on its leaders. Therefore, it is only the PTI which has to shoulder the responsibility.

Will the PTI be able to play the role of an effective opposition? No.  It doesn’t have the capacity to do so. The PTI chairman may have a million qualities, but it will take him a long time to be able to play the role of an opposition leader. Most of the people around him are good at office work and may be expert in preparing summaries for the chairman, but removing a party that has such a long experience of governance is not going to be an easy task.

The family problems of Imran Khan will make it more difficult for him to play the role of an opposition leader. In such a situation, the PML-N is not likely to face any serious challenge from the PTI. It will be in a position to implement its agenda without much difficulty. And a weak opposition is not a good sign for any country. The role played by the Jamaat-i-Islami is also unexpected of a religious party. It is a coalition partner with the PTI in KP but it supported the PML-N’s candidate for the speaker’s election. Earlier in the local elections, it had made adjustments with both the PML-N and the PTI, a strategy which can be described as running with the hare and hunting with the hound. The previous Jamaat chiefs consistently branded the PML-N and the PPP as two sides of the same base coin. Perhaps the incumbent amir is more pragmatic and has a different strategy in mind to take the party to new horizons.