LAHORE  -  The symbol of change, Imran Khan, is yet to take oath as prime minister but there are media reports that efforts have been started for the creation of a forward bloc in the PML-N, the party which emerged as the major opposition party in the 2018 elections after remaining in power much longer than any other political entity.

The objective of the move is to weaken the PML-N and broaden the support base of the PTI, the party which did not have even the remotest idea of ever being able to outnumber the PML-N, the PPP and the MMA in the National Assembly.

Deployment on some “strategic posts” in Punjab is indicative of the shape of things to come.

PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and PTI leader Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar have been designated for the posts of Punjab Assembly speaker and governor, respectively, while Imran Khan’s dark horse for the Punjab chief minister will come to light very soon.  All three pillars of the provincial setup will work in close coordination to teach the rival PL-N a lesson.

The new governor-designate and the speaker-designate have personal links with the PML-N leaders of all tiers and, with the support of powers that be, may be in a position to reduce the party of the Sharifs to a non-entity. But will such an “operation” be in the national interest?  The answer is no. Only the personal egos of some leaders will be satisfied.

Weakening political parties through baits or threats will do no good to the country. Various factions of the PML have been through such situations in the past, as a result of which they could not develop commitment for any ideology. Opportunism and power worship became the main objective of adherents of these groups. The leadership of the PML-N also did not set any healthy precedents in the past. It also created a forward bloc in the PML-Q after the 2008 elections and offered some of its adherents ministries.

 But this doesn’t mean their mistakes should be repeated even by a party which has raised the nation’s expectations by making promises of a real change in the country. The PTI-led coalition should have no time for such a negative politics to be able to deliver on its promises.

Imran Khan should always keep in mind that opportunism and lust for power even at the cost of principles have penetrated into all parties. The PTI chairman should try to set healthy precedents instead of replicating the unenviable ones started by others.  

The Chaudhrys of Gujrat and the Sharifs have been together for a long time. But they became poles apart with the change in political situations.

There was a time when, after the 1999 overthrow of the PML-N government, even the lawyer who defended Mian Nawaz Sharif in the plane hijacking case was engaged by the Chaudhrys. This doesn’t mean the Sharifs could not afford the fee but because of the closeness of the two families.

The Chaudhrys became partners with Gen Musharraf, taking most of the PML-N leaders with them. A new party– Pakistan Muslim League (without the suffix of N) was registered with the Election Commission.

The Sharifs stayed at Saroor Palace, Jeddah, and the Chaudhrys enjoyed power in the Musharraf setup. (Unfortunately, a group of about 20 senior PPP leaders also formed PPP-Patriots to join hands with the Musharraf-led setup).

The Chaudhrys got much closer to Musharraf than they were to the Sharifs. It was because of this reason that at a public meeting in Lahore then chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi said his party would elect Gen Musharraf as president for 10 terms.

The Sharifs came back to Pakistan after seven years, injecting a new life into the “dormant” PML-N. The same leaders who had joined hands with Musharraf came back to the PML-N, arguing that this is the party of their father, mother, uncle or any other relative who remained associated with it. The Sharifs had a different yardstick for the Chaudhrys. The PML-Q stayed as a parallel entity in the field. In the 2018 elections, the PML-Q could get only five NA and 10 PA seats, which is a very poor performance by a party which uses the suffix of Q (for Quai-i-Azam) to distinguish itself from other parties.

The PTI badly needs PML-Q’s support to be able to show its majority in the NA and PA. Imran Khan’s party has offered speakership of Punjab to Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in addition to other posts for other PMLQ leaders to be able to form its government. The Sharifs will now face cases – and whatever they lead to.

Imran Khan would be doing a service to himself by not forgetting that politics is a game of snakes and ladders. If ladders can take you up, snakes can bring you down. The very people who stand by you today finding in you qualities not in your knowledge will, tomorrow, have many justifications to part ways with you.

Don’t set any wrong precedent for a momentary gain. This is in PTI’s interest, as well as Pakistan’s.