While ending the PTI’s long march, Imran Khan again baffled rivals and supporters alike with his decision to leave the provincial assemblies
akistan’s political landscape is once again under a cloud of uncertainty after the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf announced its decision to resign from provincial assemblies. The decision was announced by Imran Khan during the PTI’s November 26 jalsa at Faizabad.
“I have decided not to go to Islamabad because I know there will be havoc, and the loss will be to the country,” Khan had told his thousands of supporters on November 26.
According to highly informed Pakistan Democratic Movement insiders, several things had been agreed through backdoor talks, led by former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. None of the PDM leaders has confirmed the content and agreed upon points on record, but most say that there was an agreement between the two sides.
According to the insiders, the PDM had agreed to give Khan safe passage: he would neither be arrested nor politically victimised. The PDM also expressed an inclination to initiate investigations into the attack on Khan and diplomatic cypher issue through an unanimously constituted commission. It was also decided that the PDM would replace the Chief Election Commissioner in consultation with Khan if the PTI returned to the parliament. The PDM also expressed its willingness to hold talks with the PTI for early elections. In return, the PTI negotiators agreed that Khan would announce an end to his long march.
However, Khan surprised everyone with his decision to quit all assemblies. “We have decided to not remain a part of these assemblies. We will come out of all assemblies after consulting our parliamentary parties.” Analysts believe that he will soon ask the chief ministers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Punjab to forward their advice to the respective governors for the dissolution of the two assemblies.
One thing is for sure: the PTI chairman knows how to stay relevant in politics. He has caused a wave of panic amongst the PDM parties. They believe that they cannot afford to contest for the two provincial assemblies and the rest of the assemblies separately.
Despite having reached some agreement before November 26, Khan has compelled his opponents to sit and think about how to thwart his move. The PDM is considering a no-confidence motion against Chief Minister Parvez Elahi, who is using all of his political wisdom to secure his rule.
On the other hand, the PTI supporters are eagerly awaiting the dissolution of the two provincial assemblies, but their leaders have different opinions on the matter. On December 1, Elahi left for Islamabad after meeting Khan at his Zaman Park residence. Earlier, Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan had met Khan to discuss the likely situation after the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly.
However, Khan surprised everyone with his decision to quit all assemblies. “We have decided to not remain part of these assemblies. We will come out of all assemblies after consulting our parliamentary parties.” Analysts believe that he will soon ask the chief ministers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Punjab to forward their advice to the respective governors for the dissolution of the two assemblies.
According to a source, known for his proximity to CM Elahi: “The CM will forward the advice if asked but his personal opinion is different. He believes that staying in power in the Punjab will benefit Khan and the PTI.”
For one, as long as Elahi is the CM, Khan is safe in the Punjab and any bid to arrest him will remain unsuccessful. Also, the CM has announced and initiated several projects in Lahore and other parts of the Punjab that would benefit the PTI’s vote bank after their completion. If they are abandoned, it would damage the PTI’s vote bank. Third, if the Punjab Assembly continues working, the PTI will get to name the caretaker setup in consultation with the opposition. Otherwise, the governor will install it in absence of the assembly.
In KP, too, a difference of opinions persists. PTI stalwart Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif said on Tuesday that if Punjab Assembly was not dissolved, the dissolution of the KP Assembly would be useless. KP is the only province where the PTI has an absolute majority and a strong government.
On Wednesday, senior PTI leaders held a meeting to discuss the possibilities and pros and cons of dissolving the provincial assemblies. Since Khan has given a signal to his supporters to prepare for the next general elections, some of the senior leaders decided to recommend the dissolution on December 20.
Amidst such political developments, the return of Nawaz Sharif is also on the cards. According to some PML-N insiders, Sharif may celebrate his birthday on December 25 in Pakistan.
Former president Asif Zardari, the brains behind the PDM’s political strategy, has also spoken against snap elections. “Early elections will help neither democracy nor us. If he dissolves the assemblies, we will hold by-elections there.” Zardari said that the PDM had decided to move no confidence in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief ministers. In an interview with a private news channel on Thursday, the former president said that they would contest elections if the PTI succeeded in dissolving the Punjab and KP assemblies. “We shall see how many MPAs the PTI can then get elected.” He added that they would continue to play the role of the opposition if the assemblies were not dissolved.
Zardari’s statement must be taken seriously by the PTI, especially after the PPP stood second to the PTI with a very narrow margin in the first phase of Local Bodies Elections in Azad Kashmir.
The PDM may surprise the PTI and others in a few days by sending a delegation to inquire about Khan’s health. If this happens, the PTI and the PDM will hopefully bridge their differences. Already, Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have expressed the opinion that they would counter Khan politically and there will be no political victimisation. The next three weeks are expected to be crucial in political terms, including Nawaz Sharif’s return and growing contacts between the government and the PTI.
The writer is a senior journalist, teacher ofjournalism and analyst