Over the last few weeks there has been significant discussion on the ‘leaked’ proceedings of a meeting between the civil and military leadership. The ‘leaked’ details ended up in Cyril’s article in Dawn and that led to a whole expedition in absurdity culminating in Cyril and Dawn being declared enemies of the highest order.
Since then a lot has been written and discussed about the ‘leaks’ and the information they included. I am not going to do that. Instead I am going to talk about how these ‘leaks’ were one of the many ways in which PML N is readying for the 2018 elections and why we all need to sit up and take notice of the incoming barrage of dumbassry from a political party that refuses to learn from history and is on the cusp of being headed by people who do not know the first thing about running the country.
Let’s get this cleared up from the start, these were not ‘leaks’. This was in fact a thought out plan, albeit dumb, to signal to the core base of the PML N that the party is not laying on the floor in front of the army. In a country where everyone keeps pretending that conspiracy theories about military running everything at all times is true, it is hard to signal to even the core base supporters that the party has a back bone. This kind of a big public display helps set up a call to action once the elections get closer i.e. September/October 2017. In order to contest elections in 2018, the work has to start now. PML N knows it needs to get its house in order and the very start of that is by waking up the workers they very tactfully ditched back in July 2013(That is when they stopped picking up the phone).
Now, to imagine that PML N would actually have the decency to apologize to those workers and invite them back to help out is like assuming we are going to wake up with our personal unicorns tomorrow morning. So what does one do to signal to the workers it’s time to get cracking again on that fight mode? One creates a martyr like perception. Because if there is one thing I have learned in Pakistani politics, it is that people like dichotomy. You are either PML N or you are not. It is all about activating that team identity that forces people to fight the political battles they would not otherwise do so.
So the tactical sharing of the news about civilians standing up to military was intended to activate the PML N worker that the party ditched. The question you may ask what about Cyril? Well he got used in all of this. Some will argue that he actually benefited from all this while others will say this was dangerous precedent on press freedom. I will let people debate this as it is not my topic of expertise or interest. What I can talk about though is what PML N is thinking right now and the kind of approach they will take.
Elections are roughly 20 months out now. In order to set up a decent campaign structure, you need at least 12 months of work with a core staff structure up and running at least 15 months before. Even before that you need to start signaling to the workers and sympathizers that the time is coming to do electoral politics again so be prepared.
For PML N this means pushing through the Orange Line ASAP. Additionally, it has to start showering development funds at constituencies it can potentially retake in KPK, Balochistan and Sindh. Within Punjab, the party has a stronghold that is not going anywhere. As long as the development projects are completed on time, it should all ideally work out. The economy on the whole has stabilized over the last few years purely based on the mere fact that there is an actual government trying to govern. The problem that PML N ideally should acknowledge and deal with is the rapidly growing income gap between rich and poor. For that PML N simply lacks the capacity and will. So development projects it is.
In the next 20 or so months, PML N will definitely make a multitude of mistakes. They will make blunders and say things that make no sense. The thing to remember here is that they will get by even after doing all that because we do not have a functioning opposition in Pakistan. Hypothetically, if we had a half decent opposition that was interested in taking on PML N in the long run, they would start mainstreaming the issue of economic inequality from now. They would spend significant amount of time pointing out that Punjab is run like a monarchy and bureaucrats have too much concentrated power for a democracy. They would highlight the absurd situation health and education are in Pakistan. A half decent opposition may even go as far as to commit more doctors to hospitals in addition to just building new hospitals. They would lay out a plan that focuses on creating new jobs through creation of new cities. Our cities are choked and we need a new development plan to build new cities and economic growth centers.
But I digress, point is these were not ‘leaks’. This was a snapshot of the mindset PML N now has unfortunately. The will sacrifice anyone and make up with everyone now that we are hitting the election stretch. Get ready folks, it is going to be one hell of a pathetic ride.