Politics of ‘No’

Politics of No

I was encouraged by Nawaz Sharif’s demand for an independent panel to investigate the Abbottabad operation. The N-league chief was a call for reason to take the place of emotion by creating a serious investigation of the many failures that led to both a foreign terrorist leader living in Pakistan’s borders and the foreign military raid that killed him. While emotion dominated much of the discussion after this incident, Nawaz Sharif was calling for a cooler response aimed at cleaning up the mess rather than hiding the dirt under a rug.

Besides being the voice of reason on Abbottabad, though, Mian Nawaz’s party has followed the opposite path – the old model of politics which is to just say ‘NO’ and avoid the responsibility of offering constructive recommendations and feedback to help guide important decisions in government.

This strategy of ‘no’ came actually before Abbottabad. We saw it when N-league lawmakers resorted to shouts and a walkout in April when opposition walked out during the president’s address in March. What I wrote at that time was this:

When politicians devise strategies, the goal should be to move the country forward, not to move their own careers forward. Chaudhry Nisar and PML-N have some good ideas and they can contribute to making the country safer, more secure, and more prosperous for everybody. But they can only do this if they are participating in the process, not throwing wrenches in the works and spoiling the cream for everyone else.

Unfortunately, these words are worth repeating again as once again the PML-N has resorted to walkouts this time in response to the budget and causing a ruckus in parliament.

The PML-N parliamentarians gathered in front of the prime minister, finance minister and other cabinet members and shouted pre-planned slogans through the budget speech, forcing MNAs on the treasury benches and their allies to use headphones.

The “pre-planned slogans” were also the lowest form of playing to a populist gallery rather than addressing any issues of the budget or the nation’s struggling financial situation.

The opposition’s slogans included: “US lobby; corrupt government; drone attacks; IMF budget; dacoits’ rule not accepted; stop telling lies; respect judiciary and parliament; and let Geo live.” In their slogans, the PML-N members kept calling the rulers ‘dacoits.’

What is the point of this except to play to the media gallery in hopes of a spot light on the talk shows? None of these pre-planned slogans no matter how loudly they are shouted will fix the tax to GDP ratio. None of these pre-planned slogans will fix the load shedding problem. None of these pre-planned slogans will put food in the mouths of the miserable and poor.

This is the old style of politics that has obstructed the natural growth of the nation for decades. Friendly opposition does not mean subservient to the majority, but neither does it mean acting as a roadblock to progress. It’s time to relegate the politics of ‘NO’ to the dustbin of history and embrace a new model of compromise and consensus. Every party will find itself in the opposition at some point. The best way to move from opposition to majority is to prove to the people that they can help bring the country forward, not hold it back.

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