Monday October 25, 2021

Can opposition oust Imran Khan?

August 15, 2021
Can opposition oust Imran Khan?

Prime Minister Imran Khan and his core team are confident of not only completing a full five-year term which will end in August, 2023 but also believe they would get more seats than in 2018 in the next general elections.

They dispel all speculations either of early polls or opposition’s chances of success in case they try to bring a vote of no-confidence against PM Imran or Punjab CM Usman Buzdar.

The opposition on the other hand thinks otherwise as they have geared up their campaign on the one side by reviving Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and on the other trying to fence their differences which still exist, particularly between the two key opposition parties Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). Let's see who will have the last laugh?

In a recent development, both PPP and PML-N through their backdoor contacts started counting and sharing ‘numbers’ with each other in the NA, senate and Punjab Assembly with PPP confident of getting some government’s allies with them.

While a strong group within the PML-N is showing some flexibility in its stance regarding the vote of no-confidence, the difference between the two over where they should start - from the senate or from Punjab – is still there.

During the last three years, they failed to unnerve IK except in the case of former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s senate election on Islamabad seat.

So, what really gives Imran and his team that extra confidence knowing well that in case its alley PML (Q) or dissident group led by Jehangir Tareen joins hands with PPP and PMLN), it would be matter of time when the vote of no-confidence is tabled to oust CM Usman Buzdar. Kaptan did not trust either of the two, but believed they would not ditch him at this time. Some believe IK also knows their ‘handlers’ would look after them.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has told his core team and other leaders not to worry as he believes the two parties have a serious trust deficit and he sees a split in their narratives, particularly within the PML-N.

IK believes his opponents neither have the capacity, capability, confidence nor numbers to bring a vote of no-confidence against him or his trusted CM Buzdar.

‘They have every right under the Constitution to bring a vote of no-confidence but for that they should first have confidence in each other, something lacking as reflected from what happened in the Senate elections and PDM,’ one of the close aides of the Premier told me.

Let them first restore confidence in each other and then try their luck against the PM or CM Punjab, he added.

There is some weight in this argument in the backdrop of what happened during the vote of no-confidence against the Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani. He was re-elected last year when the opposition had smooth sailing but failed to oust him.

While the government and Premier Imran Khan have their own reasons for being so confident, it would be interesting to assess why PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari saw early elections and suddenly got active in a bid to overthrow the PTI government in Punjab and at the Centre.

He has repeatedly talked about early elections and has even asked his party workers and leaders to gear up their campaign, reshuffled Sindh cabinet and appointed his party’s leader Barrister Murtaza Wahab as Administrator, Karachi.

There are three or four areas on which PPP has worked out and believes that if other opposition parties, particularly PMLN, join hands they could first overthrow Usman Buzdar through a vote of no-confidence and later would consider the Centre.

Sources said PTI’s position in Punjab depends on the support of PML (Q) and PTI’s Jehangir Tareen group. Firdous Ashiq Awan, a PTI leader, recent critical statement against Speaker Punjab Assembly and PML (Q) leader after she was not allowed entry into Punjab Assembly building could be an indicator that ‘all is not well’ in Punjab.

Earlier, former President Asif Ali Zardari held a nearly two-hour meeting with PML (Q) leader and Speaker Punjab Assembly Ch Pervaiz Elahi. Sources said they reached broader cooperation in Punjab and at the Centre. They had also discussed the mood of JKT.

Sources said both have also agreed to follow the policy of ‘wait and see’ till PMLN leadership made up its mind and both Sharifs reached on some kind of consensus over making an attempt in Punjab.

But, it may not be easy as PML (Q) would not take any such decisions unless the powerful quarters decided to remain ‘neutral’ in case opposition agreed on a vote of no-confidence.

In the recent past, the opposition has failed after initial success in the election of senators. PPP leader and former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani got elected as senator from Islamabad seat amid reports that a group of PTI MNAs from Southern Punjab allegedly voted for him.

However, the joint opposition failed in getting Gilani elected as Chairman Senate due to some foul play on the part of ranks and file of opposition. Then PPP surprised PMLN when in a bid to get an opposition slot in the Senate sought support from the government,s ally Balochistan Awami Party (BAP).

Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) might not have been able to give a serious challenge to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government. But their rallies and the public meetings and aggressive tone of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did give some positive results as even in their respective capacity they won most of the by-elections, which certainly gave momentum until PDM in a fatal conflict fell apart before its final ‘Long March.’

I was among those journalists who witnessed that disastrous meeting at the Chak Shahzad ‘farm house’ of PMLN MNA Tariq Fazal Chaudhry. The conflict occurred on a petty issue as PDM surprised both PPP and ANP when they proposed en bloc resignations from the assemblies before the Long March for final assault. PPP proposed a counterstrategy that the decision should be deferred till they reach Islamabad and assess the situation and strength.

To make matters worse former President Asif Ali Zardari in a taunting way asked former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who had joined the meeting through video link, to lead the campaign by returning to Pakistan.

The PPP leadership asked both PMLN and JUI (F) leadership about the rationale behind the move and when this decision was taken.

It not only led to the fall of PDM but also revived the old wounds. And in an unlike traditions of opposition alliances, the PDM issued show-cause notice to both PPP and ANP.

The man and the party that emerged as main beneficiary of the PDM disaster was Prime Minister Imran Khan and his ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

There is a history of distrust between the two key opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP( and they often blame each other for ‘betrayal’ whenever any conflict emerged among them. The latest in the series was the Senate elections. The hawkish in the two parties could not tolerate each other even at a time when they had cordial relationship and brief ‘honeymoon’ period.

From the Charter of Democracy (COD) to the restoration of deposed judges till the Senate elections, the PPP and the PMLN are simply not comfortable with each other. And thus it is very unlikely that they would succeed and oust PTI government in Punjab and at the Centre unless something goes wrong seriously between Prime Minister Imran Khan and those who matters.

The writer is a columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang