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January 13, 2021

Games of power

Editorial

 
January 13, 2021

In a press conference, DG ISPR Major General Babar Iftikhar has stated strongly that the military does not meddle in Pakistan's politics, has not done so in the past, has no plans to do so in the future, and has no role to play in the present confrontation between the government and the opposition alliance. The presser also clearly gave the message that it would be incorrect to suggest that the military is or has been engaged in any kind of backdoor contacts with the PDM. The presser came after comments made mainly by Maulana Fazlur Rahman on the 1st of January, and then again on Monday in Malakand, saying that the military institution supported Imran Khan's emergence as prime minister and his stint in power, and that the PDM could consider marching to Rawalpindi rather than Islamabad.

This is the basic outline of the situation politically in Pakistan today. PML-N and other political leaders continue to maintain strongly that the government is 'selected' and actively 'backed' by the establishment. Senior leaders of the party have said that there can be no doubt that the 2018 election was rigged. Analysts say that the way forward for the country and its people is for all institutions to ensure that they adhere to the spirit and letter of the constitution – in particular, the domains reserved for each institution. We have seen plenty of instances of non-political institutional intervention in our politics in the past, including deliberate attempts to break up parties, create new ones, fix elections etc. The only hope and effort for now must be to ensure that any electoral process in the country is free and fair, parties are allowed to field candidates of their own choosing and the elected are actually elected by the people of the country. The issue though with the PDM and its messaging is that for many analysts the movement seems to already have lost steam – given the back and forth and open confusion seen within the movement regarding the Senate and by-poll elections. The PDM will need to make sure that this is not the signal that is going out to its supporters as well, if it really intends to continue with its stated objectives.

For now, the next few days are crucial. We will need to see what the PDM tactics are to be and how they will evolve. It appears Maulana Fazal has become somewhat isolated although some PDM leaders including Bilawal Bhutto did join him at Malakand on Monday. There's also a contract between the PML-N and PPP. The army has stated its own point of view. And from now on, it has to be seen how things develop and what the next picture frame shows.