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Thursday May 30, 2024

Situationer: A possible win-win solution for coalition allies, PTI

Shehbaz Sharif had already offered dialogue to Imran Khan and informally, the two sides have already met following the facilitation of the establishment

By Ansar Abbasi
May 28, 2022
Situationer: A possible win-win solution for coalition allies, PTI

ISLAMABAD: PTI Chairman Imran Khan has softened his earlier position by agreeing to talks with the government to discuss the dissolution of the National Assembly and election date.

Previously, he was consistently saying he would talk only after he gets the date for elections and NA dissolution. This is an encouraging development that may pave the way for initiation of formal dialogue between the government and the opposition.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in his National Assembly speech on Thursday had already offered dialogue to Imran Khan. Informally, the two sides have already met once on Wednesday morning following the facilitation of the establishment. However, the meeting remained inconclusive reportedly because of reported arrogance of one man — Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Now after Imran Khan’s encouraging shift of giving dialogue a priority over protest, the two sides could agree to a middle ground by linking economic decisions with the political decisions.

“If the PTI shares the collective burden of political cost of difficult economic decisions for the sake of Pakistan, there could be an agreement for an election date and the dissolution of the National Assembly,” a source said.

Although, the ruling coalition claims that it will complete its tenure and that’s why it has decided to take tough decisions, the situation is still unpredictable and there are still fair chances of elections in October this year.

The government on Thursday announced Rs30 per litre increase in the prices of petrol, diesel and kerosene oil. There is a lot of hue and cry from the public over this increase despite the fact that the impact of this decision on price hike will surface in the days and weeks to come. There will now be a second raise in the oil prices, which will again be huge, to completely withdraw the subsidy (given by the Imran Khan government) in order to revive the stalled IMF programme.

The increase in oil prices will lead to an increase in electricity and gas tariff, which is also one of the conditions of the IMF. In such a scenario, the price hike would be enormous despite the relief package being announced by the government for selected classes of the society.

The government allies stand behind Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. They support the PMLN in its recent decision to increase oil prices. However, what will happen in the near future when the government would again be compelled to increase petrol price by at least Rs18 per litre and diesel by Rs50 per litre as part of the IMF conditions.

The PMLN is now badly stuck in this situation as its other allies, particularly the PPP, may not share the burden of the political cost of these future difficult decisions. The PPP was never keen to complete the tenure but keen to go into elections after the electoral reforms for which the legislation has already been done.

Even any other government ally can part ways from the coalition for one reason or the other. The Shehbaz Sharif government is vulnerable from day one. The difficult decisions it is taking will increase its vulnerability.

In this situation, the softening of Imran Khan and his readiness to enter into dialogue with the government should be seen as an opportunity to find a solution, which could be a win-win situation for all -- government allies and the PTI.

The government, which has already invited Imran Khan for dialogue, has the chance to engage the PTI and talk about the next election date and related matters by asking the PTI to become part of the economic decisions (of the ruling coalition), which are vital to avert the possible default of Pakistan.

The PTI could not detach itself from the IMF tough conditions which are leading to the present difficult decisions. In view of these facts, if the PTI decides to share the burden of the coalition government’s difficult decisions, the PMLN and other allies may agree for early elections, which are not possible before October this year.