After his exertions of the long march from Islamabad to Lahore, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif continues to rail against what he describes as the unjust verdict of disqualification by the Supreme Court. In the process, he has been lamenting the derailing of his development agenda, pointing to the accomplishments of his four-year tenure in the fields of infrastructure and energy. Obviously smarting from his dismissal, he bemoans the chaos in Pakistan during the last 70 years, the most pointed reference being to the breakaway of East Pakistan in 1971 to emerge as Bangladesh because of the failure to respect the people’s mandate expressed through the ballot box. He has expressed the fear that a repetition of such a step could lead to a similar disaster again. Nawaz Sharif has been making the case for a constitutional amendment regarding the provisions of the judiciary’s working. By this he obviously has his eye on Articles 62 and 63 and 184(3). It is plain that for any constitutional amendment to pass muster in the present parliament would require the cooperation of the opposition, especially of the PPP, and especially in the Senate. However, his ‘feelers’ in this regard have been met by a firm rebuff by the Chairman PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The young PPP chairman has categorically ruled out any support to the PML-N government’s desire for a constitutional amendment. He argued that given the turmoil in the country, any such move would run the risk of producing a clash between institutions that cannot be afforded at present. Besides, he says, no amendment could benefit Nawaz Sharif’s reinstatement as he has been disqualified by the apex court. He accused the government of striving to transgress all limits after the SC verdict. The PPP, he went on, was practicing the politics of principles and would never come to Nawaz Sharif’s rescue again. Bilawal’s sentiments were echoed by the PPP’s Leader of the Opposition Khurshid Shah, who said it should be left to the next parliament to decide about any amendments to Articles 62 and 63. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah also reminded us of Nawaz Sharif’s opposition to amending Articles 62 and 63 while the 18th Amendment was being discussed.
The PPP is angry with Nawaz Sharif for failing to appreciate the PPP’s support during the 2014 Imran Khan-led sit-in in Islamabad. In undertones it accuses his government of putting PPP stalwarts like Dr Asim Hussain in the dock. It is also alienated from Nawaz Sharif because of his studied indifference during his four years in office towards parliament, to the extent of hardly appearing in the house. The PPP had been arguing throughout this period that the democratic forces could only chart the path forward through the strengthening of parliament and situating it centre-stage in the state’s institutional structure, but was disappointed by Nawaz Sharif’s ignoring it. In stage whispers the PPP is expressing the view that Nawaz Sharif got what he deserved for this flagrant lapse. Be that as it may, the PPP may just be taking this hard line position more as a bargaining chip than a final stance. What it would take for Nawaz Sharif to overcome the PPP’s stated hostility is not clear. Of late, Nawaz Sharif has waxed nostalgic about the Charter of Democracy he signed in exile with Benazir Bhutto, and which he seemed to forget soon after her assassination in 2007. Whether the provisions of the Charter can be revived and provide the foundations for a reconciliation with the PPP is in the realm of conjecture. However with the arrival of the PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari in Lahore, the chairman PPP may learn at some point that the word ‘never’ is never the final word in politics.