The Nuts And The Bolts Of The One-Party State

The Nuts And The Bolts Of The One-Party State

Murtaza Solangi discusses the making of the “one-party state” through the arrests of political rivals and restrictions on media. But he also says it won’t save the PTI government if issues like devaluation, inflation and unemployment aren’t addressed.

The arrest of Rana Sanaullah, former Punjab law minister and the most vociferous lawmaker of the PML-N, and the bumping of Asif Zardari’s interview with Hamid Mir on the heels of passing of the budget this week clearly shows that the hybrid system is digging in the heels, and more arrests and new restrictions on media and freedom of speech will follow.

The brazen and blatant actions of the Imran Khan government, supported by the Miltablishment are followed by new and novel threats of arrests and attempts to break both the PML-N and the PPP and create support groups for the “selected” dispensation from within the parties. The threats to wrap up Sindh government too are being hurled to dissuade the PPP from the removal of the Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.

All these developments are taking place in the backdrop of fast rising tensions between Iran and USA and its Gulf allies, including Israel, and the dialogue process with Afghan Taliban on steroids. The six billion dollar deal with IMF might be inked shortly. The arrangements are being made for the first official visit of Imran Khan to the US. Just before his visit, the State Department has put Balochistan Liberation Army on the list of the terrorist organisations to smooth out the relationship but no new financial measures by the Trump administration are expected.

The fact that the budget will be easily passed with the help of the MQM and the BNP-Mengal was known and reported. The Imran Khan government had to bend backwards to appease the MQM with one more seat in the federal cabinet and address some of the core demands of the BNP-Mengal. The reports of another seat in the federal cabinet for PML-Q too are being worked out.

Passing of budget, a new dole out announced by Qatar, activation of the oil on deferred payment by Saudi Arabia, however, has not stabilised the economy yet. Every day the new statistics of inflation, unemployment, price hike, shrinking of foreign direct investment, contraction of the economy, closure of the industrial and business unit and strikes and shutdowns are coming in. Uncertainly and slowing down of every business and trading activity is the hallmark of Naya Pakistan these days.

Opposition parties are slowly rising from the slumber as the efforts to make a one-party state and cutting every outfit to size are in full swing. Many see the rising restrictions on media and the references against the outspoken and independent judge Qazi Faez Isa as the necessary steps in creation of the one-party state. The launch of the new Development Council with the COAS given a formal membership in the economic decision-making symbolises the centralisation of powers.

Despite the anti-establishment rhetoric by the APC, the mistrust between the parties is not over yet. They are still moving cautiously as each thinks that the other party might try to cut a deal with the Miltablishment for seeking some relief for survival.

The steering committee has been formed with Ahsan Iqbal and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi representing the PML-N and Yousaf Raza Gilani and Nayyar Bukhari representing the PPP. “The PPP wants Yousaf Raza Gilani as the chairman of the steering committee but PML-N wants to have a rotating chairman as witnessed in the alliances of the 80s and 90s”, said an insider.

Although a decision of removal of the Senate chairman was made in the last meeting but still there is no consensus on the future top slot as each big party thinks it is their right to have the chairman of their choice. Till there is a consensus on the candidate, there will be no forward movement in the removal process.

Even if there is a consensus on the APC candidate for the Senate chairman, it won’t be easy, despite the fact that the opposition enjoys almost two-third majority in the upper house. “The arrest of the candidate and his supporters and pressure tactics to persuade the opposition senators to vote against their party candidate can’t be ruled out,” said an analyst who keeps an eye on the parliamentary process.

While Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman seems determined to slug it out with the Imran Khan administration, the PML-N top leadership still seems divided on the future strategy. The doves and the uncles in the party are not excited about the leadership of Maryam Nawaz Sharif but are undecided on the next steps forward. “As the things stand, they have the option to jump the ship, go silent and deactivate themselves till things get clear or actively stand behind Maryam Nawaz Sharif,” said a party insider.

In the meantime Maryam Nawaz Sharif is slowly and gradually consolidating her position and increasing her visibility while Shehbaz Sharif is shedding one responsibility after another. While retaining his position as the Leader of the Opposition, he has resigned from the position as the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and all other committees. His dovish strategy has fallen flat in his face.

As traders continue their protest against the budget and industries close one by one, there is palpable anger in the public at large against the deteriorating economic conditions. The political leadership of the APC is taking into account the rising anger to coincide it with their major activity on July 25, the first joint activity as the day of the protest. This will be a test case for the opposition as Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman plans to stage a major activity in Peshawar on the day of the protest.

“So far the Imran Khan administration is taking the easy steps of jailing and harassing politicians and imposing new restrictions on media. Their utter failure is stopping the steep downward slide of the economy. If they can’t stop the continued depreciation of the rupee, inflation, price hike and joblessness, their goose is cooked. No arrests and no positive reporting can save them”, said a political analyst on the developing situation.
Executive Editor

Murtaza Solangi is one of Pakistan's top journalists, and former Director General of Radio Pakistan.