Imran Khan Government Is Safe, But Real Battle Is Not Over
Notwithstanding the dire predictions being put out on daily basis by the opposition coalition, the PTI-led coalition government of Prime Minister Imran Khan does not seem to be going home before the expiry of its full five-year term.
And also notwithstanding the seemingly strong support that was being seen to be lent to Maulana Fazlur Rehman of Jamiatul Islam’s demand for the immediate ouster of the current incumbent by the mainstream political parties—the PMLN, PPP and the ANP— following the launch of the former’s Azadi March now continuing in its low-profile phase ‘C’ comprising protest rallies in various cities and towns, there appears to be no serious threat to the current government in Islamabad.
Still, the relentless and uncalled for provocative attacks by a Prime Minister appearing to be fighting a losing political battle for his power and being mocked by his selected spokespersons against the opposition, especially the PMLN and particularly against the state of health of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the equally stinging response from the latter seem to have caused a kind of media frenzy given to predictions on daily basis of something dire lurking in the shadows waiting to happen on the political front which most of these pundits believe to be a manifestation of a looming abrupt end of the political system itself if not the unceremonious ouster of PTI-led government in Islamabad.
However, when one looks at the broad picture of the current state of politics in the country from a safe distance, that is minus the emotional involvement with any one of the fighting factions or a combination, it appears as if the two, the incumbent government and the opposition both had begun their respective terms promising cooperation and collaboration in the best interests of the country rather than contesting and confronting against each other. But within a matter weeks of formation of the government the two seemed to be going for each other’s throat without any real political rhyme or reason and in the process have ended up causing an unnecessary danger to the country’s political stability, its economy as well as to its security.
Just recall the victory speech of the Prime Minister soon after winning the elections and the reassurances held out by the leadership of the mainstream political parties soon after despite their reservations about the elections being rigged, offering cooperation to enable the government to complete its five-year term.
But instead, the first fifteen months of the incumbent government has only generated wasteful political polarization. The reason: On the face of it, the PM seems to have owned up the corruption cases against the high profile opposition leaders, instituted mostly before the PTI government came into being. The PM also seems to own up the actions being taken by the NAB against the opposition leaders since he took over the reins of the government in August 2018 because that is exactly what he had promised to do once he won.
Though he keeps on reminding that the NAB was functioning independent of the government and also that most of the cases were instituted before the advent of the PTI, but so far this admission has not been able to remove the crassness in his rhetorical narrative against the opposition.
In fact, he seems to enjoy the predicament of the high profile opposition leaders facing corruption charges—their incarceration without trial and the guilty verdicts against them by media trials. He mocks and insults the opposition leaders using these cases to his heart’s content during most of his outings inside the country and outside.
And seemingly having convinced himself of the authenticity of the media verdicts, he seems to be treating even the elected opposition parliament members as criminals, therefore, by his rationale not qualified to be treated at par in running the government and parliament.
He is, therefore, opposed to issuing of production orders for enabling these ‘criminals’ to attend parliament. He is also opposed to enter into consultation with these ‘criminals’ for the appointment of members and head of Election Commission or its members. And it was his opposition to talk to these ‘criminals’ for cooperation in getting important legislations passed that he had resorted to issuing ordinances.
And since the PM and his selected spokespersons have been treating the elected opposition leaders as common ‘criminals’, they also find it almost impossible to do anything other than oppose and oppose matching the government in vehemence and passion.
In the case of media, it is another story. Though, it was the media which more than anything else had helped him in his election campaigning, Khan and his government is being seen as too oppressive for media and responsible for forcing the media to resort to self-censorship.
Media knows that no PTI minister or worker can dare instruct the hawkers not to distribute a particular newspaper in a particular locality or order a particular cable operator not to transmit a particular channel’s programme in a particular area, or tell a newspaper or a channel not to run a particular story or give it a particular slant, still since these instructions and orders come via telephone by persons masquerading as members of intelligence or security agencies, the full responsibility by default is passed on to the PTI government which in actual fact does not appear to be the real culprit.
The approach of the PTI government in meeting these challenges which apparently are not of their own making has greatly helped the ‘miltestablishment’ (to use a term coined by veteran journalist Najam Sethi of Friday Times to describe the combined force of military and the establishment), to remain in cognitive while it continues to run the state without having to answer for the failure of its policies which are actually being implemented in the name of PTI government.
And it has also helped the ‘miltestablishment’ in getting itself removed from PMLN’s target of attack the Party had launched soon after the ‘miltestablishment’ had arranged to have Nawaz Sharif disqualified by getting the Supreme Court to oust him on the outlandish charges of not being Sadiq and Amin, both attributes of our Prophet (PBUH) and at the bar of which even those judges who had disqualified NS would have failed miserably.
The ‘miltestablishment’ had perhaps hoped that as soon as NS is disqualified the PMLN would disintegrate and the members of the Sharif family would land in jail for good held guilty by the media.
But this did not happen. NS kept his Party intact by using two simple slogans: “Mujhey kiyun nikala” and “Vote ko izzat do”. Both these slogans were directed against the ‘miltestablishment’ and not against PM Imran Khan or his government both of whom had only a passing hand either in ousting NS or forcibly seizing his mandate.
And when the “miltestablishment” saw that not only NS and his Party have not lost their popularity but were successfully challenging the ‘miltestablishment’ in Punjab which the latter had considered its bastion it was seemingly gripped by panic. More so because Punjab had become in the meanwhile a bastion of PMLN as well. And the ensuing contest had become more of a match between two equals and which with the passage of time, as the popularity of the political façade (Imran and PTI) started waning, the political Punjab was being seen as becoming more than a match for the “miltestablishment”.
Therefore, the pressure on an unwilling Imran to let NS go abroad on medical grounds. Imran had to acquiesce to the demand but he could not suppress his frustration and disappointment for having to take a “U” turn on his political mainstay: NRO only over my dead body. I will make them weep. I will force them to pay their loot through their nose. Therefore, his last two seemingly uncalled for outbursts against the state of health of NS.
The “miltestablishment” is now hoping against hope that NS would not return and neither would any other member of Sharif family including Maryam Nawaz would take up the cudgels. However, those who know Nawaz, especially the one who returned home following Musharraf’s NRO to Benazir Bhutto, insist that the nation has not seen the last of him. They expect him to return with renewed vigour, get himself exonerated from the cases he is facing and resume his battle against the “miltestablishment”.
The author is a senior journalist and editor.