By Syed Talat Hussain
Former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi could have expected a better response to his seemingly procedural action of leaving the Peoples Party that had long abandoned him, and which he had practically left earlier this year. He was all over the place in terms of coverage and his action was the hottest topic of discussion in town. And it would continue to be, not because of his resignation from the party and the seat of the National Assembly but because of the feeling that the Asif Ali Zardari government is now under severe strain and politically something big is bound to happen.
The change that everyone is talking about—a chatter to which Mr Qureshi has himself contributed on less significant fashion—centers on the possibility of early polls under a neutral set-up, which is not nominated by President Zardari but is based on national consensus. It would be interesting to see how the largest opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N responds to Mr Qureshi’s appeal for mass resignations from the house to create the reasons for fresh polls.
If the PML-N fine-tunes its own frustrations with those of Mr Qureshi’s thinking in the parliament then the change might actually be nearer than most of the political pundits are willing to admit at this point. However, the PML-N might also see Mr Qureshi’s departure in the blaze of media glory as a stunt by the Establishment (read the Army and the intelligence agencies) and therefore give him and his demands a cold shoulder. President Zardari would be a direct beneficiary of any such response. Mr Qureshi seems set to move close to Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf, but whether as part of an informal alliance or by actually joining the party remains to be seen.
He is certainly not the first one to drift towards Imran Khan nor would he be the last one. But that advantage that his association would give to Imran Khan—who insists that he would sweep the elections—could be neutralize if other opposition parties do not join the Pakistan-under-threat chorus that he sang last night.