Sunday July 14, 2024

Angry politics

By Editorial Board
March 10, 2022

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Karachi yesterday, presumably in a bid to win over the MQM-P, seemed to have transported him back to his container days – with the PM resorting to choice words for the opposition. A visibly angry prime minister addressed PTI workers at the Governor House in Karachi and doubled down on his claim that the no-confidence move will not work; the opposition is full of crooks and thugs who are now on his radar (specifically referring to Asif Ali Zardari); and that their time has come. There isn’t much new here as far as Imran Khan’s discourse goes. However, there is a difference between being an opposition leader and a sitting prime minister. The unwelcome return of the toxic political discourse of the 1990s and the frequency with which such public statements have come from Prime Minister Imran Khan can be seen as a sign of immense frustration at what is happening on the political front, with the combined opposition having managed to rustle together a requisition for a no-confidence motion as well as an impressive march towards Islamabad.

Some of the frustration must indeed stem from the noncommittal stance taken by the PTI’s ‘allies’ – the MQM-P and the PML-Q. We have seen a flurry of meetings: Chaudhry Shujaat meeting Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Asif Ali Zardari as well; and the MQM-P planning to meet Zardari. In this context, the fact that the MQM-P made it clear on Wednesday that they may be allied with the PTI but that nothing is certain must sting far worse at a time when the PTI government is looking at every ally for support. So are we really about to see the fall of a government? The opposition has been making strong assertions that it commands even more than the minimum votes required to overthrow the government. According to the opposition, the main ballots in its favour will come from defections from within the PTI. The main issue for many of the anticipated defectors is who heads the Punjab government. The Jahangir Tareen group – along with the Aleem Khan group – is looking to dislodge CM Usman Buzdar. This bone of contention may well be a deciding factor in what happens. For Prime Minister Imran Khan, removing Buzdar would show weakness but keeping him on could lead to a whole set of defections. Removing Buzdar would also place the PM between a rock and a hard place – Pervaiz Elahi or Aleem Khan as the new CM?

Added to all this is the completely unnecessary talk regarding some sort of international conspiracy to oust the prime minister. Not only does that make the government look rattled, it also affects Pakistan’s diplomatic engagements. Already, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin has said that the PM should not have publicly slammed EU envoys. All in all, the government has every reason to at least start to look jittery. However, nothing is certain and for all the opposition’s talk about numbers the vote of no confidence is still very much up in the air. For most analysts, nothing is yet writ in stone as regards the no-confidence vote – on either side. Barring momentary embarrassment, even if the opposition were to lose the vote they have managed to create enough of a hype in its constitutional role as a pressure group. At the end of the day, the optics have shown the prime minister going from Islamabad to Karachi to Lahore in a bid to woo (back) allies. For some, that would be a measure of success.