Several political analysts are expecting a rockey journey ahead for the government
In Pakistan, 2020 was a period of political activism through protests, large public gatherings and rallies in the midst of the pandemic. The political scene has been dynamic, especially in the second half of the year.
The anxiety and frustration of the people primarily due to constant increase in the level of poverty, inflation, unemployment, and food prices is what the opposition capitalised on. Opposition political parties greatly bank on public’s grievances and dissatisfaction to mobilise opinion against the government.
The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of opposition political parties, decided to challenge the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government and mobilise the public to remove it. The PDM has already held rallies and public gatherings across the country and is now preparing for a final ‘sit-in’ in the capital.
Wajahat Masood, a political analyst and author, says that this year should be considered an unusual one for political activism. He says the general public is enthused again. People have shown their political prodigy and democratic aspiration by participating in political rallies, protest demonstrations and large gatherings, he says.
According to political analyst Amjad Warraich “the PTI government’s weakest area” is the “unrealistic promises” made to the public prior to coming to power. He says broken promises are an easy and strong emotional and motivational trigger point in the hands of the opposition parties.
“The claims of having a comprehensive agenda and a team of highly qualified professionals to put the country on the path of economic prosperity have proven no more than a political stunt. The current economic and political challenges are enough to show that the PTI government has neither a solid plan nor an adequate team to handle the problems facing the country”, he argues.
However, such public enthusiasm is not novel in the Pakistani political system. Since 1990, opposition parties have been taking to the streets against the ruling party to send it home. The alliance of PTI, PML-Quaid, AML (Awami Muslim League), and PAT (Pakistan Awami Tehreek) had opted for the same approach, in 2014, to send the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) government home.
Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi, the former caretaker chief minister of the Punjab, believes that the momentum built during the electioneering normally fades out within two years.
“No political party has ever fulfilled the pre-election promises made to its voters. This creates a political vacuum and a great opportunity for the opposition to manipulate the situation to ultimately launch a full-fledged political movement”, he says.
The question, however, is whether or not this movement has the potential to bring some fruitful outcomes for the masses.
“Both [the opposition and the government] are using extra-parliamentary methods against each other thereby weakening the highest political institution. This shows the contradictions between their slogans and practical approaches”, he adds.
He says the planning and aspirations of both the government and the opposition are “entirely indifferent to the aspirations of the general public”.
“Therefore, no positive outcome for the general public is expected from the current political tussle between the PDM and the government”, he says.
Since 2013, the phenomenon of pro-PTI versus anti-PTI has been on the rise. With it, Warraich believes, that elite and mass polarisation have increased. Elite polarisation, is the polarisation between the party in government and the party in the opposition. Mass polarisation refers to polarisation in the general electorate in terms of political views.
“Both are being exacerbated by the government and the opposition. This is why it increasingly feels like Pakistani politics have entered a vicious cycle, whereby the moral and emotional language used to stimulate one side is directly provoking the other”, he explains.
Several political analysts are expecting a rocky journey ahead and do not see stable political and economic conditions in the next year. Tussle between the ruling elite will continue, they say, likely creating constitutional hiccups and causing political disillusionment and eventually bringing forth more socioeconomic and democratic challenges.
The author is a staff member. He can be reached at [email protected]