Khan’s masterstroke: PTI in; PML N down; PPP out

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Ansar M Bhatti

The dissolution of Punjab and KP assemblies is considered as a smart move on the part of the PTI chairman that may ultimately pave the way for the general elections. Imran Khan is quite confident that the country would go to general elections either in March or April this year. While it is still a mystery who has given him this hope, the ruling alliance is hell bent upon dragging the elections to October or even next year. Whether the elections take place as per the choosing of Imran Khan or are delayed as per wishes of the ruling parties, one thing is for sure that the country and its people are suffering on a daily basis. The price hike monster has gone out of control; lawlessness has become the order of the day and the economic condition is deteriorating with no let up in sight. There is no second opinion that the ruling parties do not have any interest in managing affairs of the country. Their only priority happens to be getting a clean chit for what they have done in the past.

According to govt claims the Geneva climate resilient conference went very well as a handsome amount was pledged by the donors. The biggest announcement, roughly $ 6 billion, out of total 9.7 billion came from the banks which means this $ 6 billion will not be a grant rather a loan because banks do not give grants. There is no time frame as to when the first tranche of the amount shall reach Pakistan. The finance ministry had told people that the country’s economic situation would improve considerably after the Geneva conference but certainly it is not the case. According to the document these pledges shall materialize in the next three years and that too if the government comes up with an efficient and workable rehabilitation plan.

There is a consensus among all stakeholders that without political stability the economic stability would remain a distant dream.  The PTI Chairman in his interview on January 17, 2023 said the party was ready to return to the National Assembly provided the incumbent government was willing to announce the date for the elections. Even when the PTI decided to resign from the National Assembly, most of the analysts including myself believed that the party would be committing a grave political mistake by doing so. Anyhow it did it and thus left space open for the PTI dissidents to assume role of the opposition albeit a dummy one. A player can be more effective and relevant only when he stays in the field. The PTI gave a walk-over to other parties by leaving the National Assembly. The PTI leadership takes pride in taking U-turns, ignoring the fact that this approach negatively impacts upon its credibility besides providing an ample chance to its opponents to take it to task.

Tehreek-eInsaf wanted to achieve two main goals by returning to the National Assembly. First, it would be in a position to launch a no-trust move against the prime minister and 2nd, it would be in a position to propose names for the caretaker prime minister in case the government announces to hold general elections. But as a surprise move the Speaker National Assembly has accepted resignations of 35 more MNAs of PTI thus reducing PTI MNAs strength in the National Assembly to 95 only. Now even if the PTI returns to the assembly, it will not be in a position to pose any challenge with this number and especially in the absence of the top leadership. It indeed appears to be  a well calculated move on the part of the government but it can prove counterproductive as well.  

As regards the PML N, the party has suffered ever since it took control of the government. Its popularity has gone down considerably due to which it has to face severe challenges in the general elections. The PML N used to be the largest national party having roots and support in all over Pakistan but the recent Local Government elections in Sindh have proved that the party has almost vanished from Sindh. PPP historically has always been a leading party especially in the rural Sindh but in the urban Sindh the MQM and Jamaat-e-Islami had always performed well. The MQM is out of the game as it chose to boycott the elections, while the Jamaat has successfully been able to regain its mandate. The PTI finished 3rd, which ostensibly should be a matter of concern for the senior leadership. The results show all is not well in the ranks of PTI Karachi. In my last piece I had pointed out that Imran Khan has to be active again, sooner rather than later, in order to whip up the gradual slide in party popularity. The PML N situation should serve as an eye opener for him and the rest of the leaders that it is simply next to impossible to lead the party from abroad, or in Imran Khan’s case, while sitting at home.

The PPP seems to have managed Karachi and Sindh in the Local Government elections but it does not mean it may put up similar results in the national elections as well. This is a fact the party, which used to be a symbol of the federation has now been confined to Sindh only. After recent maneuvering in Balochistan the party may get some seats however it may not help it on the national stage.

For PML N, PPP and other parties, it was not less than a miracle that they were facilitated to take power. No one among them had even the slightest idea that they could get a chance to rule this country. It was indeed a sheer luck for them and bad luck for the PTI that the political scene of the country was altered within no time. However these parties, prima facie, have failed to cash in on this opportunity. There is a strong view even within the ranks of these parties now that it was a grave political mistake. But perhaps the leaderships of these parties do not think like this. For them the first and foremost task was to get a clean chit which they have done successfully. They probably know very well that people have very short memories. Only a couple of cuts in fuel prices can easily win them the public support. In addition to that, if you have support and backing of powers-that-be then you don’t even need to bother about any fuel cuts or public welfare measures.

Summing up, Ch. Parvez Elahi and his team intend to join the PTI instead of merging the party into the PTI. While Ch. Parvez Elahi and his cohorts are likely to benefit a lot if they become part of Tehreek-e-Insaf, their joining may not augur well for PTI itself. PML Q represents forces of the status quo while the PTI is here to break the status quo. Most importantly, the PMLQ people may prove a Trojan horse within the ranks of PTI because their loyalties would always rest somewhere else.