FeaturedNationalVolume 14 Issue # 01

Can Imran turn his weaknesses into strengths?

Many analysts and opposition parties believe Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan will fail to deliver on his promises as the prime minister of Pakistan and new elections will be called in six months after public wrath. The dice are heavily loaded against him as he heads a weak government, faces a strong opposition and his team lacks experience. However, he can turn the situation to his favour by a robust performance in the next few months.


Analysts linked to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) believe Imran Khan will fall out with the establishment in few months and he would join them in protests against the meddling in civil affairs. His sympathizers say he will not indulge in unnecessary confrontation with the establishment and would actively pursue his agenda of reforms in national institutions. The situation is not new to him. His party was handed the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) after the 2013 election because the PML-N leadership thought he would fail to govern a province which was lawless and the prime target of terrorists. However, the party reformed the province and satisfied the people with its performance. Reforms in police, health, education and environment sectors enabled it to win with two-thirds majority, unprecedented in the history of the province. The people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have also not elected a party for two consecutive terms.


According to PML-N leaders, the elections were rigged to pave the way for the PTI’s success. However, the PML-N was given a two-thirds majority when polls were managed to bring it to power in the past. Some analysts claim rigging was committed to deprive the PTI of an absolute majority. A thin majority means the establishment wants to keep Imran Khan under its thumb as it has leant a lesson from its past experiences with the PML-N. It would have been an ideal start for Imran Khan if his party had bagged a simple majority and it did not need the support of independents and coalition partners. In the situation, he was left with no option but to make compromises to form the government and it would be a challenge for him to act upon his first 100-days plan.


A thin majority in the National Assembly means Imran Khan will face the Herculean task of legislation and amending the Constitution. He has promised to make a new province in south Punjab, which needs a two-thirds majority to amend the Constitution. A simple majority is required for legislation. The party will need the support of all coalition partners to make laws. It will be difficult for it to convince its coalition partners, let alone opposition members, who will be hellbent to foil any attempt to make new laws, regardless of whether they are meant for the welfare of the people of Pakistan. The opposition also enjoys a two-thirds majority in the Senate. It will attempt to return every bill passed by the National Assembly on one pretext or the other.


The new government will also have to appoint a new president of Pakistan by August 25. It is possible that the president could be from the opposition as the PTI lacks the required number for its own. If the PTI failed to appoint its own president, it could be for the first time that a ruling party would work under a president of the opposition in Pakistan’s history. The president has fewer powers to influence the government or the public, but the office has a symbolic value. The office, though ceremonial and should have been abolished, cannot be left vacant for even a moment in accordance with the 1973 Constitution. Article 41 of the Constitution states that a maximum of 60, or at least, 30 days before the termination of the tenure of a president, the next one should be chosen. And if there are no assemblies, then within the 30 days after their elections, the president will be nominated.


The opposition hopes it can exploit the PTI’s compromises to stop Imran Khan from fulfilling his electoral promises. However, he can foil its designs. He will have to make the people realise that he is working for their betterment. Even if he delivers on a bare minimum agenda, he would have done his job. Ignoring new legislation for the time-being, he will have to focus on implementation of existing laws. It will deprive the opposition of its nuisance value in a few months. He will have to appoint efficient and honest professionals in regulatory and watchdog organisations. Accountability through the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the judiciary should be quick and exemplary. Law enforcement and investigating agencies, like the police, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), must be reformed and professionals must be appointed to head them. On top of it, the prime minister himself and his team should ensure efficiency, transparency, fair play and justice.


According to optimistic analysts, Imran can turn his thin majority into a strategic weapon against the opposition with an outstanding performance. Reforms in national institutions, good governance, ruthless accountability and investment in human resources will increase his powers and vote bank in the country. He will have to work expeditiously for the first few months and will then be in a position to push the opposition to the back foot. He could threaten the opposition to dissolve the assemblies to make legislation required for his new Pakistan. His performance in the first few months will be the key to bringing the opposition into the line and he would be in a position to “blackmail” the opposition. He has eliminated all parties in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with his performance. He can repeat the feat in the National Assembly to eliminate the status quo parties in the country.