LAHORE - All political parties, including the ruling PML-N, remained much busy in 2014, filling the year with hectic activity.

The year started with a mixed opinion by the political forces on government-initiated peace talks with the banned outfit Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but ended on a military operation against Taliban and executions of terror convicts with consensus of all political forces, institutions and the people, following a game-changer terror attack on the Peshawar military school. Prior to that a watershed event took place on June 17, in which 14 Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) activists were brutally killed by the police at Model Town, Lahore. The ensuing situation prompted a strong protest against the government that lasted till end of the year.

In the outgoing year, every party in one way or the other locked horns to gain political ground which was largely created by the failure of the ruling party about fulfillment of its promises on energy crisis, price hike and others relating to the public welfare. The question of legitimacy of the government also arose in the political landscape after PTI and the PAT portrayed the May 2013 elections as rigged and engineered. PTI and PAT clashed with the government through long marches and sit-ins in the federal capital, while MQM and PPP had a tug of war over division of Sindh, which resulted in separation of the former from the PPP-led Sindh government. The PML-Q and other smaller parties played on the side of the protesting parties against the government.

The PPP struggled to regain the lost ground in the Punjab, but did not succeed fully. Jiyalas in the Punjab felt greatly disappointed when PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari did not appear before them. This also denied the party due dividend of Zardari’s long stay in Lahore and his struggle to revamp the party in the province.

Like PML-N, news of rifts in the PPP also remained rife. Th2e media reported serious differences between Asif Ali Zardari and Bilwal Bhutto on the remarks the latter passed against the MQM in a Karachi rally while dubbing it a rogue party and also for appointing party men on his discretion, particularly Sherry Rehman as senior vice president and Jahangir Badr his political adviser. PPPP President Makhdoom Amin Fahim became disgruntled after his role in the party was marginalised and he was sidelined in the party matters as well as decision making. Obviously in a bid to show weight and importance, Amin Faheem held a meeting with former military president Pervez Musharraf who had also become much active after the high treason case against him had been diluted and the high court had stayed trial of the case unless former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, ex-Law Minister Zahid Hamid and CJP (r) were also enlisted as co-accused.

The MQM focused on making units in Sindh to a great chagrin of the PPP. In Sindh three former chief ministers, Ghaus Ali Shah, Liaqat Ali Jatio and Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim, at the head of the PML-F Chief Peer Sibghatullah Rashidi and former NA speaker Elahi Bakhsh Soomro, all from the fold of the PML-N, raised the voice of revolt and moved to gather all Muslim Leagues on a united front. In Punjab former Punjab Governor and PML-N Senator Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khosa rebelled against the N leadership and flocked with the Sindhi dissidents of the party. Sardar Sahib objected to favouritism and rule of a clique in the PML-N and his voice assimilated with those of likeminded persons in Sindh. The N leadership turned down the allegations of Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa. The PML-N also faced problems in Balochistan where the party leader, Sanaullah Zehri, and his group in the assembly were quite uneasy with Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch over the division of power.

The PTI lost Qaumi Wattan Party (QWP) of Aftab Sherpao as a coalition partner in the KP government while its ties with the other partner, JI, also could not be seen ideal. Due to the PTI protest, the PK government suffered in terms of security and public welfare projects in the province.

Maulana Sirajul Haq replaced Syed Munawar Hassan as new amir of Jamaat-e-Islami. Sirajul Haq headed a jirga of tribal elders to defuse political tension created by the sit-ins whereas other religio-political parties mostly remained in low profile.

The protest politics of the PTI and the PAT took the central stage. Both the parties were not satisfied with the election results and embarked on protest, albeit, with different objectives. The PTI took to long march to Islamabad on August 14 after its demand of recount in four constituencies was not met while the PAT also followed its suit. By the time, both reached the venue at D-Chowk, Islamabad. The PTI demanded resignation of the prime minister and ouster of the government to pave the way for fresh elections while the PAT took the course of inqilab to pull down the entire ‘corrupt and polluted’ system. The daily tirade by Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri from the protest containers was quite embarrassing for the government which came under more pressure when PTI tendered resignations of its legislators at the Centre and in the provinces except KP. Later, the situation took a horrible turn when both the parties simultaneously entered the Red Zone where the highly sensitive buildings of the state were being guarded by the Army and Rangers. Along with women and children, workers of both the parties marched to the Red Zone and five people were killed in clashes with police when the political workers also entered the PTV building, Parliament House and the Prime Minister House and switched off the telecast. The government got a case under Anti-Terrorism Act sections registered against Imran Khan, Dr Qadri, KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and others while PTI and PAT also got cases registered against the prime minister, the Punjab chief minister, federal ministers, police and administrative officers over the killing of their workers, with the intervention of the High Court. Feeling a threat to democracy and advent of the third force to power, all parliamentary parties rallied around the federal government in the name of saving the system and the government. With one voice, they all turned down the demand for the PM’s resignation and holding of new elections.

On the invitation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari attended a lunch at Raiwind where both the leaders renewed their resolve to foil any attack on democracy and the government. The protesting parties termed the meeting of the duo a part of their ‘muk muka’ politics to remain in power. Around the same time, a major blow came to the PTI when its president, Javed Hashmi, parted ways, differing with Imran Khan’s dharna. He also quit the MNA seat but, later, he failed to recapture his own vacated seat as an independent candidate in his hometown Multan despite support from PML-N and PPP. He lost the election to another independent candidate, Amir Dogar who got votes in the name of PTI. Before media persons, Hashmi levelled very serious allegations against the PTI. Later, the PTI and the PAT expanded their protest and held rallies separately in Lahore, Karachi, Faisalabad, Larkana, Abbottabad, Multan, Gujranwala and other cities. The PAT took a turn and announced to shun ‘inqilab’ and adopt the politics of elections to bring about change through the parliament. Later, the PAT called off dharna. Qadri Sahib went abroad for medical checkup and came back on November 23, but again went to America for medical treatment. The situation also watered down the PTI stance and it dropped the demand of the PM’s resignation and new elections, but insisted on the election probe through a judicial commission. The government agreed to it. To keep pressure, the PTI held successful shutdown in Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad. It was due to shut down Islamabad on December 18, but Army Public School in Peshawar came under intense terror attack on December 16. Feeling pulse of the moment, the PTI immediately ended the Islamabad dharna and protest and joined all political forces which then had lined up against terrorism with the army on the front. Imran Khan sat with the PM at the parliamentary parties’ meeting and his party took part in the committee which worked out a charter to eliminate terrorism and punish terrorists through the military courts.

The PTI and the government resolved to continue talks on setting up a judicial commission. The talks are still on when the year has come to an end. Terror has gathered both the ruling and opposition sides which otherwise were at daggers drawn throughout the year.