Hotter days ahead?

January 24, 2021

Allegations of corruption, illegal foreign funding, and nepotism are flying from both sides. With the Broadsheet scandal adding another twist, the political atmosphere is more charged than ever

Photo by Rahat Dar

The political temperature is not showing any signs of cooling down. Allegations of corruption, foreign funding and nepotism are being continuously exchanged by the government and the opposition parties. Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the ten-party opposition alliance, some political analysts say, is trying to win over certain state institutions. Some say that opposition parties have successfully dragged Imran Khan into their crease where his claim of being corruption-free is no longer effective.

The PDM is persisting with its policy of keeping political pressure on the government and other institutions; the protest in front of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is the latest rally held by the alliance. On the other hand, the government is trying to give the impression that it is not worried. Invitations are being extended on its behalf for the ten-party alliance to announce the schedule for its much-awaited long march.

Critics of the PDM’s method say the movement has failed to attract a large enough number of people to its last couple of public gatherings to be effective. They posit that this highlights a weak connection between the opposition parties and the masses. That is the reason why the PDM has decided to pressure the ECP. Its plan of action to shake the establishment’s incessant support to the incumbent government has failed, says former caretaker chief minister of the Punjab and political analyst Prof Dr Hassan Askari.

“There can be no doubt that the PDM is still maintaining pressure on the government but knocking out the incumbent set up appears to be a far cry. Prior to ringing the bell of the ECP, the PDM had already tried to bring the general public to the streets to join its agitation against the government and to convince the armed forces to not support it; neither approach has met expectations”, Askari tells TNS.

This means, according to him, that the opposition parties have started realising that they cannot overthrow the incumbent government by themselves and that they need to take “some relevant institution” on board.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), has not been at the last couple of PDM rallies and public gatherings though some of the senior party leaders have been participating. Shiekh Rasheed Ahmed, the interior minister, claims that Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, the head of PDM, is “being fooled by Bilawal”.

Askari posits that the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) might be more desperate than the PPP.

Photo by Rahat Dar

Shiekh Rasheed Ahmed, the interior minister, claims that Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, the head of PDM, is “being fooled by Bilawal”. Askari posits that the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) might be more desperate than the PPP.

Salman Abid, a political analyst and author, says that the PDM is “fighting the disorder within it” which “does not help the opposition movement in coming up with a solid and practicable plan of action against the government”.

“The desperation of the JUI-F and the PML-N is visible but the PPP is at ease. It is using the movement in its interest. Bilawal Bhutto has opted for a well-predicated political approach based on the party’s heavy stakes in Sindh”, he adds.

Bilawal, in his opinion, clearly understands that the home ground strength can be helpful in the future not only in retaining the Sindh government but also in capturing a sizable chunk at the federal level.

It is absolutely clear meanwhile that not a single party is ready to resign from Senate and assembly seats, says Abid.

“In addition, there is a strong disagreement between the PML-N head Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari on wrapping up the whole system; Zardari wants an in-house change but Sharif is demanding a new election. Therefore, as the only hope left, the PDM is trying to get the PTI disqualified by the ECP”, he claims.

Tahir Malik, a political analyst, believes that the PDM has done well to bring the Imran Khan administration’s image to a point where “most among the general public will not buy the government’s claim of being financially honest and anti-nepotism”.

“In recent times the situation in the political cannot be gauged through the number of rally participants. The number of participants in the PDM’s rallies and public gatherings cannot be the basis of declaring those a failure; the silent majority now plays a crucial role in the democratic process. Religious-political parties always hold massive public gatherings but they’ve never had a majority in the electoral process”, he tells TNS.

The PDM has not been able to establish a strong connection or oneness with masses which appears to be a strong hurdle in achieving the set agenda against the government, he says.

“Moreover, Imran Khan’s twenty-four-year narrative portraying himself as financially honest and different from other politicians has been driven into the ground now. Together, Imran Khan’s approach towards running the government and the aggressive political campaign of the PDM have ensured this end. This should be seen as a success for opposition parties”, Malik adds.

In the midst of all this, political analysts consider the Broadsheet scandal to be another factor to grapple with while it is difficult to predict anything at this stage. Apparently, political pressure from the PDM will remain in place but the goal of ousting the government will be difficult to achieve unless the government itself makes some blunder.

The author is a staff member. He can be reached at [email protected]

Hotter days ahead?: Govt, Opposition level allegations of corruption, illegal foreign funding against each other