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Maulana Can Take All Or Lose All In Islamabad

Jan Achakzai
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It is for de facto opposition leader Maulana Fazalur Rahman and his other political backers to go either south hence triggering the unraveling of the system or reap the fruit of the victory of the March, and let the system also march towards the third democratic transition, writes Jan Achakzai.

Maulana Fazalur Rahman has scored a big victory by wiping out almost all political parties singlehandedly becoming a de facto opposition leader. The number of his followers is reportedly more than 100,000 in Islamabad and it is a very respectable figure for any political party to pull off, impacting the government’s thinking, morale, and choices.

Going forward, he has two options: first scenario – 1970s’ PNA-like situation in a different manner repeats, i.e. Imran government goes and there are no elections most probably for 3 years and if Imran Khan goes, JUI-F will also likely lose and get no share in power, and the ensuing government takes over madrasas – the base of Maulana’s politics.

Though it seems far-fetched, the second scenario unfolds like this: Maulana takes the March to its peak; then as a consequence gets the best, for example, de facto opposition status (e.g, share in federal and two provincial governments); accordingly, share in the power as well; safe party future; and intact madrasa base for the next generation. In other words, he gets ministries at the federal, KP and Balochistan levels; it also means he locks his party as a viable political option for the next election.

How can the dynamic of the first option kick in? It will in part crystallise if Maulana tends to let his victory be marred because it’s tethered to his persona, politics, partisanship, and hate for one single man: Imran Khan. As a result, he digs Islamabad and provokes the anchor of stability (i.e, the establishment) by scrapping the agreement of not marching towards D-Chowk. In that eventuality, the security forces will have to respond. Their usual response would be to prevent him from marching on to Red Zone. But it is beyond imagination for the security forces to fire at the protesting but highly charged crowd, and cause casualties.

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What will likely follow is that the third umpire will have to finish off the deadlock, as history suggests, through intervention. The intervention always ends in two parties going home and a new political setup takes over, paving the way for new elections or a coalition government. Since the party in government is PTI, it will have to resign. Then Maulana will also lose any political share in the future after he crosses all the red lines and suffers an eventual squeeze and that is the lesson of Pakistan’s political history.

Now read the bigger picture: since the final arbiter of the present impasse is the establishment, the last thing it needs is political instability created by a stalemate between politicians; and given the deteriorating strategic environment in the region and the ever-increasing strategic advances against Pakistan by India, it is beyond any logic to add more problems to its plate, including prolonged political instability.

In an ideal world, the challenge should have to be a) addressed by the Imran Government, b) as Prime Minister, Imran Khan should succeed and c) if any help is needed, it should be extended.

Yet the underwriters of the system abhor a paralysis and checkmated positions by its own players, i.e. politicians. As always, the lack of accommodative spirit and not adhering to democratic rules of the game leads to undemocratic outcomes. And all the argument of civilian supremacy rings hollow when the civilians fail to see the bigger picture and the national interests. As always, when politicians fail to work out power-sharing arrangements and keep politics above the national interests, then in order to rescue the country from such ‘hostage politics’ is their sole raison d’être.

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Today, Pakistan’s political system is on the crossroads in literal sense – politicians can either ensure continuity of democratic experience by not unleashing energies to unravel the incumbent government or create an impasse through political logjam which inevitably leads to one outcome: intervention of the forces of stability and sending off all political forces, whether in government or in opposition, home.

Thus, it is for de facto opposition leader Maulana Fazalur Rahman and his other political backers to go either south (taking the first option) hence triggering the unraveling of the system, or reap the fruit of the victory of the March (opting for the second option) and let the system also march towards the third democratic transition (i.e, in 2023 elections as per normal schedule). So, it is now their call.

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