Unceremonious exit of former Prime Minister Imran Khan and the events unfolded in the last 48 hours were unprecedented in the political history of Pakistan. It only ended after former premier was told of the possible consequences of violation of the Supreme Court five-member bench unanimous decision regarding vote of no-confidence.
What surprised everyone was the April 3 surprise which actually resulted in the fall of government. The grand idea of his legal or political team for using Article 5 of the Constitution as the last resort caused fatal damage after the Supreme Court declared the Deputy Speaker ruling of April 3 illegal and unconstitutional.
He might be down, but not out as challenges for the new government are grave and keeping the combined opposition intact would be a daunting task.While his narrative may still sell in the public eye, what happened on Saturday and Sunday may not go well for Imran Khan and his party’s political image.
It was around 11pm on Saturday when Imran Khan was finally told that in case of violation of the SC order he and his team could not only face contempt of court but action under Article 190, as the five-member bench of the SC, after reports that its order not been implemented, reached the SC building before midnight and for the first time in the history was all set to sit for urgent hearing.
Thus, Imran was left with only two options â€” either to quit or face exit through a vote of no-confidence. He had already lost the majority of the House. His allies except Chaudhrys of Gujrat had joined the combined opposition.
Perhaps, former Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid was the lone sane voice which advised him to resign as he has lost the confidence of the House.It was cleared by March 28 that they may sell the narrative of controversial â€˜diplomatic cable’ to the public but not to top state operators’. Sources said they also disagree with the manner the issue became a public debate.
Knowing well that his days are numbered he decided to play an â€˜anti-US’ card which always has its own political significance particularly in his strong constituency Khyber Pakhtoonkhawa. After 9/11, this card led to the surprising victory of religious parties’ alliance comprising JUIF and JI in the form of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in 2002 elections. The split in the MMA in 2008 provided space to Imran Khan’s party PTI to form government in KP in 2013.
Perhaps Imran Khan expected the establishment to support him, at least on â€˜diplomatic cable’ issue, but he could not secure it. It is reported the relevant department had informed the National Security Committee that no such thing as conspiracy could be found.
On March 28, when the leader of opposition, Shehbaz Sharif, moved the motion of no-confidence, the Speaker Asad Qaiser found it in order as there was no objection from the treasury side and fixed April 3 day for voting. It was the government’s biggest blunder as far as tackling the vote of no-confidence was concerned.
Had the PM shared content of the letter with the Speaker on March 27, not just waving it in public, he would have been in a better position.
By April 3, Imran’s government was without the support of MQMP, BAP and other smaller groups. Even two of PMLQ MNAs also sided with the opposition. Nearly 22 PTI MNAs, who did not cast their vote, as opposition already had enough votes, were supporting the opposition.
The last blunder from his side was committed on Saturday. When he knew it was all over, he could have either resigned with grace while addressing the nation or should have simply asked the Speaker to finish it on Saturday morning by allowing voting on the motion. He was finally voted out Saturday midnight, making way for Shehbaz Sharif, the new leader of the House nominated by the combined opposition.
But, all is not lost for Imran Khan as he has an ability to stage a comeback. The challenges for the new government would be far more grave and expectations of the people are very simple i.e. relief and nothing else. The other daunting task for the combined opposition would be to keep its alliance intact, which may not be easy.
Can the new government keep its rank and file intact and provide major relief to the people before the next elections due in a year? The failure will give someone like Imran Khan, who still has a huge following, to stage a strong return in the next elections.
The writer is a columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang. Twitter:@MazharAbbasGEO
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