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August 11, 2018

Politics of compromise


August 11, 2018

It has long been a dictum in politics that you campaign in poetry and govern in prose. The PTI, having secured victory in the general elections by promising a new, cleaner kind of politics, is now facing the reality of political compromise. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the PTI swept the elections for the provincial assembly, the deal-making has been within the party. Mahmood Khan, the surprise candidate for the chief minister slot, is believed to be a close ally of former chief minister Pervez Khattak. Mahmood previously served as sports minister in the KP government and his record there was far from spotless. He was accused of transferring Rs1.8 million of official funds to his personal account – although he maintains his innocence and says the problem arose out of a mix-up. He was forced to resign his position but was later absolved by the Peshawar High Court and then went on to serve as the provincial minister for home and tribal affairs. The biggest challenge the party will face in the province is to stay united since Atif Khan – the original expected candidate for chief minister – commands a sizable following within the PTI. The party faces a similar problem in Punjab. Before the elections, Shah Mehmood Qureshi was the favourite to become the chief minister but his defeat in the provincial elections means a new consensus candidate needs to be found. The PTI also has to repay the independents who supported the PTI and gave it the opportunity to form the new government even though the PML-N won more seats in Punjab.

At the federal level, as the new parliamentarians prepare to take their oath on August 13, the PTI will quickly have to get into governance mode. The country is facing steep economic challenges that could require going to the IMF for another bailout or convincing China to give Pakistan another loan. This makes it essential that the new government get its cabinet together as soon as possible. The PTI should not expect much cooperation from the opposition parties, which are still smarting over what they believe was rigging designed to bring the PTI to power. Even though all parties have agreed to sit in parliament, they are continuing to protest this alleged rigging. The only allies the PTI has right now is the MQM-P, the BNP-M and various independent parliamentarians. Its majority in the National Assembly will be razor-thin and should the combined opposition parties stay united they could thwart the PTI in the Senate. Imran Khan and the PTI are about to learn just how difficult it will be to live up to the many promises they have made to the public.

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