Wednesday September 28, 2022

Chaotic politics

By Editorial Board
August 18, 2022

In a major throwback to the 90s, the coalition government in the centre and the PTI government in Punjab are at each other’s throats. Where the federal government has initiated cases against the PTI leadership, the PTI government in Punjab has been indulging in raids at the PML-N’s Atta Tarar’s residence and threats to arrest the PML-N leadership if they were to enter Punjab. Where the federal government is gunning for the PTI in the foreign funding case and PDM members are pursuing the Toshakhana case against Imran Khan, the PTI is crying foul over the arrest of Shahbaz Gill, the PTI chairman’s chief of staff. What we have then are two governments in one state, both indulging in the most base politics of confrontation, all while the country grapples with increasing prices, climate change worries and a major social breakdown.

There is also internal confusion within both the PTI and the PDM parties. For the PTI, Shahbaz Gill’s arrest has been a major blow, and Imran Khan has alleged that Gill has been tortured while in custody. Oddly, this allegation was contradicted by none other than Punjab Home Minister Hashim Muhammad Dogar who claimed that Gill was completely fine. Even more oddly, just a few hours after his statement, Dogar tweeted a clarification saying that Gill had been tortured under Islamabad Police custody, and not in Adiala which comes under Punjab’s jurisdiction. There seems to be some confusion within the PTI on how to react to Gill’s arrest, with PTI members trying to distance themselves from Gill’s statement while at the same time some alleging he has been mistreated by law enforcement while in jail.

Not to be outdone, the PML-N is back to confusing politics. The much-rumoured internal ‘disagreements’ – most of them stemming from the House of Sharif – seem to be coming to the fore via statements on the recent petrol hike. When Maryam Nawaz directly tweets out that party supremo Nawaz Sharif is unhappy with a decision taken by his brother’s government, the inevitable takeaway is that not all is well within the party. The fact that Asif Ali Zardari too seems to have taken a stance against the petrol hike just makes the government look weak from within. Whether this is a ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine or the internal contradictions are finally coming out in the open may be hard to decide but the optics sure don’t look good. Per some observers, the PML-N is looking at the next elections, which is why both Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz may be distancing themselves from the government’s economic decisions so that when they go into the public for electoral campaigns, they can have plausible deniability. While this thinking may appeal to the PML-N leadership, it makes little sense given the fact that the coalition government is largely seen as a ‘PML-N government’ and any decision taken by it will have to be owned by the party regardless of who tweeted what. Politics 101 would dictate at the very least not throwing your own under the bus. Much the same goes for the PTI. As chaos and confusion reign supreme, none of the parties seems to have much of a narrative left to offer the people. Depressing times indeed.