Thursday June 20, 2024

Back to the ‘letter’

By Editorial Board
April 09, 2022

The vote of no-confidence is set to take place today in the National Assembly. But Prime Minister Imran Khan is not ready to accept the results of what he calls a ‘foreign conspiracy’ against him and his government. Speaking to the nation on Friday night – possibly for the last time as prime minister – PM Imran Khan doubled down on the ‘foreign agenda’ narrative. He has called the opposition a bunch of sell-outs who are ready to sell their souls to the West for power and come in as an ‘imported government’; he has said he will not give up his struggle against this conspiracy; and he has given a call to people to protest on Sunday night against such intervention. However, the prime minister has said he accepts the SC’s verdict – though he is ‘disappointed’ and feels that history will tell what judicial decision was fair and which was not. In a nutshell then, the PM seems to have realized the vote of no-confidence will work and the PTI seems set to take to the streets – again. It is also uncertain whether the PTI will try to create enough ruckus in parliament today to delay the vote of no-confidence. More worryingly, the PTI is more than ready to use allegations of disloyalty to the state during the coming elections. While the PM spoke of the ‘letter’, he did not reveal its actual contents due to official secrecy issues. Yesterday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had said that a commission would be formed to probe the ‘threat letter’ and present its report within 90 days after investigating how many opposition and dissident parliamentarians were in contact with foreign powers. Per reports, Lt-Gen (r) Tariq Khan was supposed to lead the commission but he refused. We are as yet not clear on whether there will indeed be a probe into these serious allegations.

It is now apparent that this is the narrative the government is setting up for its next election campaign – since evidently the ‘tabdeeli’ and ‘corruption’ slogans have been beaten to their natural end. The one-sided accountability against PTI’s rivals without any concrete cases made it apparent to most political observers that this was a vindictive drive. The only narrative left is one which paints the PTI’s opponents as traitors who have sold the nation to foreign powers aka the US. It is also apparent that PM Khan will not bow out with grace. The disruption and propaganda he is aiming at could easily put the lives of the opposition members in danger; we already saw a glimpse of what that can lead to when PTI representatives strung up an effigy outside the Sindh Assembly, all the while chanting ‘traitor’.

This is straight from the playbook of fascist regimes all over the world – from Trump to Modi, patriotism propaganda sells. A government that could not deliver on its promises of reforms, on the economy, on its anti-corruption promises, and on governance is now using this dangerous crutch because it does not believe in playing fair. When a government loses the confidence of its own parliamentarians, when there is a no-confidence motion submitted against the speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly deputy speaker, it is time for the head of government to bow out – and live to fight another day. But the PTI and PM Khan have unfortunately had little time for democratic tradition or parliamentary niceties. Disturbingly, the route they have taken could lead the country down a path of violence. If political analysts are to be believed, PM Khan may not have the sort of electoral support he managed in 2018 through a series of deftly-handled political wheeling-dealing that involved arm-twisting. Without the strong-arm tactics used then, all he is left with may be an abstract letter on which to base his entire campaign. It may sound flimsy but anti-Americanism is a heady slogan – and if nothing else the 200 parliamentarians in the opposition will be walking into a campaign with unsubstantiated taints of disloyalty already attached to their names.