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October 14, 2020

Showdown time

Editorial

October 14, 2020

We appear close to what looks like a serious showdown between the combined opposition parties and the government. While Prime Minister Imran Khan and his team insist that the opposition will not and cannot be successful in weakening or dislodging the government in any way, the opposition fervently disagrees. The strongest disagreement comes from the PML-N, although the JUI-F with its street force factor will be a major player in the days ahead.

The PML-N has said it will indeed be able to change the government – possibly even see defections from within the PTI itself. So far, while some PML-N MNAs have defected to the PTI, It is not clear if there is a group within the PTI disillusioned with the party itself, and willing to change over. What will also be crucial is the question of what tactics are adopted by the opposition. The government has said it will allow rallies to be held, but not the use of force or any illegal means. Will the opposition be able to muster enough people to stand out onto the streets? The PML-N has very little tradition of street power or street agitation. While the PPP will struggle to turn out people, notably outside Sindh, it is then up to the JUI-F to bring in the crowds. Whether there can be a change inside the House is even more questionable. So far the PPP has had a wishy-washy reaction to the issue of resignations. But we cannot say how things will go in the future. The government quite obviously will try to win allies from within the opposition and keep them on their side. The PPP is a very likely candidate for this.

For now, the success or lack of it of the Oct 16 Gujranwala rally may determine things for the future. But this is clearly a test for the government. The crippling price inflation means people are angry. How angry they are will be reflected in the days ahead as the opposition movement begins in earnest and stages its rallies in cities across the country. There is also the question of how the government would meet this challenge. If it is able to do so, with dignity and grace, it will gain a lot. Any efforts to begin a process of negotiations or discussions have not really taken place. Maryam Nawaz in the PML-N and other key leaders of the party remain defiant. With two days to go, the opposition is neither mincing words nor shying away from public exposure. Will we see the government’s confidence wane as the rallies grow closer?