Huddles galore

Editorial Board
September 20, 2022

Politics is heating up once again, with political huddles taking place all over – from Bani Gala all the way to London. Recent events seem to have shaken up former prime minister Imran Khan,...

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Politics is heating up once again, with political huddles taking place all over – from Bani Gala all the way to London. Recent events seem to have shaken up former prime minister Imran Khan, what with talk of a ‘minus-one’ option, the contempt case setback, the rebuke by the ISPR, and the now-growing idea that elections are still far away from taking place. Per reports, the PTI chairman has lashed out at his own party members for ‘bypassing’ him and getting in touch with the establishment. With this outburst, the confusion within PTI ranks about party policy vis-a-vis the establishment too has become rather visible. But what Imran Khan fails to see is his own contradictory stance regarding the issue: he has been playing hot and cold regarding the ‘neutrals’ from the day he was ousted from power. For some political observers, there may be a touch of desperation in the PTI’s stance now. While on the one hand, it seems Imran wants to prove his indispensability to the power wielders in the country, on the other he would also like to reconcile with them – probably realizing that his political career will go nowhere without such patronage, no matter how large a jalsa he can manage. As talks of high-level meetings do the rounds, the PTI has now – once again – threatened a ‘long march’ to Islamabad. The earlier rally cry in May this year had largely fallen flat, leading to Imran Khan apparently taking to task his party leaders for failing to get people out in large numbers. With a waning narrative – albeit still strong on populist support – the former PM and his party may be at a crossroads of sorts. They can go with what seems to still be Imran’s leaning: trying to reach out however awkwardly to the establishment, or they can decide to reach out to the political class and have an adult conversation on the way forward for politics and democracy in the country. As things stand, the PTI’s rank and file may be torn between the two themselves. And if history is any guide, the party does not hold a stellar record of making up with the PMl-N and the PPP.

On the other side of the divide, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif disregarded the justifiable reservations regarding the optics of such politics and met PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif in London. The meeting has resulted in a decision to hold elections at the stipulated time next year. This could also explain the PTI’s attempt to exert more pressure, as some observers say the PTI would ideally want the elections before April for strategic reasons. The Sharif brothers also discussed a possible change in Punjab, which is said to have been on the cards for quite some time now. The PML-N, expectedly, is not ready to go for general elections without Punjab in its hands. The important matter regarding the next COAS was also discussed between the prime minister and his elder brother.

The floods have managed to throw off the current government’s economic plans by some measure. And with a desperate PTI looking for any and all excuse to rail at the government, there is little wonder that Punjab’s politics are what they are and that Rana Sanaullah sounds increasingly eager to thwart any major move towards Islamabad. In courtly matters too, while Imran did get a major relief yesterday in the terrorism case when the Islamabad High Court ordered that these charges be dropped against him, the contempt case and the Toshakhana affair both loom large. What is most disturbing however – apart from a former PM trying to get back to power no matter what and a government in power trying to hold on to a weak power centre no matter what – is just how little the ‘people’ figure in the imagination of the country’s political forces. A word or two, a pledge or more here and there will not help the more than 33 million who stand affected by the floods that have ravaged most parts of the country. We have said it earlier as well: demanding elections, and jetting off to foreign lands can perhaps take a back seat for now as a whole population struggles to survive.



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