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A Juma Janjh Naal!

To the credit of Former President Sardar Farooq Leghari, instead of waiting at the sidelines till the present government succumbs to the consequences of attempting Hari-Kari every fortnight or so, he has adopted the legitimate route of political activism to try and come to power. On 14 August 1998 he launched his much propagated Millat Party, long on rhetoric but seemingly short of new ideas and/or a cohesive framework for political action from a still to be unveiled manifesto. Except for a handful of persons who one can label as electable or technocrats, a majority of those who attended the Convention do not inspire much confidence for the future. However that is the start of any Party, PPP began on Edwards Road Lahore in the late 60s with very few human assets. One agrees that the idea is right, fresh faces must be encouraged to come and clean up the political scene in the country. This will be an uphill task. In the sub-continent Moghul Emperor Akbar the Great set the trend of bucking the system when he tried to set up a parallel religion to amalgamate all those existing then. His “Din-e-Elahi” ultimately became the butt of jokes through history, Farooq Leghari will have to work really hard politically to avoid the “Zillat Party” tag that people have already started to label his new found political grouping with.

As a dedicated PPP man, Farooq Leghari’s nomination for President by Ms Benazir in 1993 was the ultimate reward for blind loyalty. It is unbelievable that as a close associate of Ms Benazir he was not able to discern the very visible negative traits in her personality and behaviour pattern in the 15 or so odd years he spent with her in and out of the political wilderness. One stint was spent with Ms Benazir in power when she was married and Farooq Leghari should have been able to surmise for himself Mr. Zardari’s tendencies to loot the nation seemingly as his bounden right for having married the nation’s daughter. His transformation, from a die-hard loyalist to an unforgiving enemy, can mostly be laid at the door of Asif Zardari’s shenanigans. Leghari cannot completely absolve himself fully of the guilt of the pillage engineered between 1993 and 1996. It was only when Zardari transgressed into his personal affairs that Leghari suddenly saw the light and dismissed his mentor from office. For that one act alone he deserves full credit, otherwise Pakistan would have been worse off by end 1996 where we are in 1998. The difference between that period and the present is that as much as one may vilify Mian Nawaz Sharif, the fact remains that his economic team cushioned the blow that was to ultimately come in mid-1998 by a series of far-reaching reforms and stabilising of the financial institutions by bringing in capable management. From 1993 to late 1996, Zardari’s cronies were in every level of financial management and their aim was singular, to channel money into his and their pockets. What was quite apparent to almost the whole country in 1994 and 1995 should also have been seen by Leghari much earlier than in late 1996, in fact should have been anticipated by him as early as 1993 as “a man of conscience and principles”. To put it bluntly, out of deference to the fact that he was made President by Ms Benazir he stood by and allowed this country to be looted by her husband at will.

Theoretically at least Farooq Leghari is correct in seeing a possible political bonanza, the public is totally disenchanted with PPP and getting frustrated with the series of faux pas being committed by the coterie around Mian Nawaz Sharif, if not the PML(N) as a whole. In addition, Ms Benazir Swiss nemesis seems to be tightening the noose of accountability around her and by extension PPP. ANP and MQM are regional parties without any hope of a national following except in parts. Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) is nationally well organised nationally but is in comparison very much lesser in numbers, the other religious parties are strong in regions and parts. There does exist room for a third party to flourish, a vacuum in the political fabric of Pakistan that Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) has been valiantly trying to fulfill. Despite Imran Khan’s obvious charisma his political appeal has still not matured enough to materialise into a potent political nuisance value as yet. That he will be a coming force in years to come no one should doubt, the very fact of his keeping to the hustings despite the disappointment of the last elections suggests that.

A systematic study of the percentage following of PML(N) and PPP shows that each of the two major parties possesses a basic core of about 20-25% of the voting populace with a floating percentage of about 15-20%. Depending upon the mood of the populace at any given time the direction the majority of the “float” decides to take dictates the make-up of the Assemblies in any general elections. In the last four occasions whichever has been the ruling party has taken a beating because the populace has been frustrated with their performance, the urban area has been particularly sensitive to bad governance. Since he has not been able to attract political heavyweights across the country, Farooq Leghari is gambling upon attracting the “float” element disenchanted with both the parties. In the circumstances, Imran has had more time and opportunity to get a political machine together, one that has already fought an election within months of the Party’s inception. As such logic dictates that Millat Party may not be in a position to entice more voters onto its platform relative to Tehrik-i-Insaaf’s persuasion powers. At best Millat Party will eat partly into PTI’s garnering of the “float” vote, thereby polarising the political divide further.

Whether one is the PML(N), PPP, PTI and/or the newly launched Millat Party (MP), one element of the “float” vote will always go with whoever are the winners. There is a particular crowd that is extremely “professional” about joining up with whoever is the ruling party. This lot has no ideology, no conscience and owes its allegiance to only its own crass interests, which amounts to mostly filling their own pockets through various means. Whichever government comes to power will find this element aligned with it, at least till they are discovered and evicted by the ruling Party or they themselves conclude that there is no profit in remaining associated with the rulers. In short, these are the “good time fellas” who benefit from opportunity that is available in quantity with those governing the nation, they live only to celebrate. A group which joins with (Naal) every wedding Party (Janjh) is called Janjh Naal. Many years ago famous character actor Allauddin embellished the role of such a personality called “Juma” in a less than memorable film with a rather self-explanatory title, “Juma Janjh Naal”. One wonders how many who came to the Millat Party launch convention in Lahore were serious about their commitment to the new party? Or did they just come for the good food served to over 2,200 guests at a cost of Rs. 1 million plus at the Pearl Continental Lahore?

Whether it be Mian Nawaz Sharif, Ms Benazir, Imran Khan or Farooq Leghari, all have to be extra careful about the “Juma Janjh Naal” (JJN) types who infiltrate the nucleus of every winning Party and give them the facade of a strength not in keeping with their real size. Pakistan’s problem is that our rulers never seem to take these JJN-types seriously and, therefore, invariably make an over-assessment of their own strength. Since the JJN-types have a fairly strong clout as they are well connected to the Establishment as such they have more than nuisance value and make very bad enemies, they have to be treated with kid gloves. For Pakistan’s democracy, the phenomena of JJN-types underscores the lack of a credible system based on the concept of universal adult franchise and peoples participation in governance at the grassroots level.

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