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Should Govt Be Worried About Maulana’s March?

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Awais Babar argues that PTI had set a wrong precedent in 2014 by taking to the streets to demand then PM Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. It is now getting a taste of its own medicine. 

Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur-Rehman is confident, a lot more confident than PTI was back in 2014 just before embarking on its historic sit-in against then PM Nawaz Sharif. Who knew that pioneering the route of agitation to overthrow a sitting government would pave the way for the same against PTI’s own government only a couple of years later?

PM Imran Khan, in the early days of his government, challenged the opposition to hold a sit-in similar to the one in 2014, adding that he would admit defeat if the opposition managed to stay put for a month.

Meanwhile, Dr. Shahid Masood recently claimed in his show that he had a word with someone ‘very important’ in government ranks regarding the probable threat to government due to the Maulana’s march. “There is no threat to government as long as there is a seal of approval from the bigwigs”, he was told.

The government does feel threatened as is obvious from the body language of the ministers. And it expects the establishment to support it till the end – but is this a realistic expectation?

There are striking dissimilarities between the 2014 and 2019 marches aside from the fact that two completely different parties resorted to such aggressive politics. The PML-N government’s governance in its initial years was well despite the ‘Imran Khan challenge’ that they faced.

Electricity and terrorism were the two key issues facing Pakistan at the time. Both these issues were addressed to a significant degree. And PML-N government was able to survive the 4-month dharna. The prices remained in control, so did terrorism except the so far unresolved incident of APS massacre.

But the PTI government has all the support from the establishment, and yet it failed to meet even the slightest of expectations. Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that PML-N did remarkably well given the fact that it had no support from the powers-that-be.

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Compare this with the situation at hand with respect to the governance of the incumbent government. Other than the PM’s first address to the nation as refreshing as it was, everything else kept falling apart in bits and pieces. The worst part is that it gave in too easily to establishment’s desires. For instance, removing Asad Umar so soon and replacing him with a completely indifferent man who only knows numbers was a sign that the PM was ready to go to any limits to appease the establishment.

And by removing Asad Umar, the PM ended up harming his credibility. It gave an impression that if he fails to stand by even the most trusted man in his cabinet, he can’t be counted on. The PM forgot that in the name of making the institutions independent, he was actually making himself dependent in the long run.

The PM lost so much grip that he had to go back on his announcement to appoint Hammad Azhar as the Federal Minister for Revenue notwithstanding the embarrassment it had caused.

Governments survive only if they have a minimum level of grip on most affairs of the state including finance. If the finances of a government are contracted out, the uncertainty that we see today follows. We were better off with Asad Umar than a whole team of IMF letting the ship sink and only concerned with grabbing all the valuable things.

It is this lack of grip that has made Maulana so confident that all he needs is to light a fire and he seems super-confident that the blaze will occur on its own, invariably in all corners of Pakistan. He does not even need the support of PML-N and PPP anymore, as he has not sought any with much earnestness. Add to that the mysterious silence from the Fort with no clear signal to its acquiescence or assent. We often hear that silence is half consent. We will soon find out if that is the case here.

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Maulana is a smart politician and chose the best time for his mission as the people in general are not unhappy with the PTI government.

There is another major contrast between both the movements. In PTI 2014 sit-in, the majority of participants belonged to a single category of people – the young lot. However, the upcoming JUI march/sit-in is likely to comprise of a diverse range of people. This is mainly due to the fact that for the very first time in Pakistan, all the diverse stakeholders have united against the PTI.

Compared to PML-N and PPP, JUI-F is an altogether different party ideologically. Similarly, their followers are also significantly different to each other in their modus operandi. Nonetheless, one agenda unites them all; to throw the throne. Unfortunately for PTI, its roots are in clusters, found apart from each other; not to be found deep down. If all these factors do not worry PTI then what will?

PTI has mostly resorted to glorifying the charisma of its leader and ended up putting all the eggs in one basket. That charisma got endangered when the responsibility actually burdened the shoulders of Mr. Khan. And the charisma could not do it all alone. In any case, Maulana must go to Islamabad, so that everyone gets a taste of his own medicine.

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