FeaturedNationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 12

Dissenting voices in Pakistan’s ruling party

Rising prices have become the biggest threat to the government. Smelling blood, the opposition has also launched a movement against the government inside and outside the parliament. The situation is becoming difficult to handle for Prime Minister Imran Khan after lawmakers of his own party have started criticising the government over skyrocketing prices, unemployment and non-resolution of issues of their constituencies.

Recently, the ruling party lost heavily in local elections in its stronghold, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and ministers publicly admitted serious rifts in the party. Resultantly, Prime Minister Imran Khan dissolved all party organisations across the country. According to him, the tickets were not awarded on merit in the KP polls, which resulted in the embarrassing defeat of party candidates. However, the truth is that people are facing the worst inflation and they are annoyed at the government policies. The government has lost almost all by-polls because of high inflation. No action will work until the government brings down prices and improves governance.

It was not surprising when two senior PTI lawmakers expressed their anger against their own party recently. First, Prime Minister Imran Khan had to face an awkward situation during a meeting of the parliamentary party of the ruling alliance when Defence Minister Pervez Khattak complained about the neglect of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by the Centre. According to media reports, the Prime Minister became angry and snubbed the defence minister for what he called “blackmailing.” Reportedly, the defence minister said that he would not vote for the prime minister if new gas connections were not provided to his province. He also warned the Prime Minister that if the situation lingered on, the people of KP would not vote for the PTI. He stormed out of the meeting in a rage. However, Khattak later denied that he had either harshly talked to the Prime Minister or hurled any threat of not voting for him. A day after the incident, another PTI leader assailed his own government on the floor of the National Assembly for “ignoring” Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and demanded that top cabinet members, including the PM himself, be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL). “Members who occupy the first three rows are the main culprits of the chaos in the country, so put their names on the ECL and Pakistan will survive,” PTI MNA Noor Alam Khan said, pointing towards the front rows of the treasury benches. Like the defence minister, the ruling party MNA also raised the issue of the ban on new gas connections to KP, particularly Peshawar. After his blasting speech, the ruling party served him a notice and withdrew him from the Public Accounts Committee and all sub-committees.

The dissenting voices in the ruling party represent public sentiments. Elected representatives know they have no chance to win the next election if they fail to redress public grievances, which are increasing by the day in the PTI government. Rising prices and unemployment are serious problems for the people but the government is not serious about their solution. After the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the two issues have worsened. It is obvious that the government has no quick fix solution, yet people want a more serious effort from it to tackle the situation. The government should take practical measures to control inflation, which troubles the masses, instead of window dressing as it is running out of time.

People had voted the PTI to power in the last election on the promise of bringing about change in the country. Instead, they are facing the hardest time of their lives. The situation has forced lawmakers of even the ruling party to speak against the poor performance of their government. In several parliamentary meetings, Prime Minister Imran Khan was left red-faced when his own lawmakers and coalition partners savaged the government over rising food prices and hikes in power and gas tariffs. They expressed their annoyance at the party leadership for policies, which have overburdened the common people and made their lives miserable.

Undoubtedly, the PTI lawmakers’ severe criticism of the government’s performance is justified. The government claims to have put the economy on the right path, but its benefits have not started reaching the common man yet. The government claims to have improved all economic indicators. It cites a contraction of the current account deficit, high growth rate, rising large-scale manufacturing, stable exchange rate, increasing foreign direct investment and foreign exchange reserves at a comfortable level as its achievements. These could be a remarkable success of the government, but they have not benefited the common people in any way. They are facing the worst inflation and unemployment in Pakistan’s history. It is because of the bad performance of the government that prices of edibles and essentials continue to skyrocket despite the fact that electricity and gas tariffs have not risen for some time, while the rupee is also stable against the dollar.

The criticism by the legislators should serve as an eye opener to the Prime Minister and his team, especially economic managers. The elected representatives are getting panicked because they know they have little chance of re-election in the next polls if the government fails to improve the situation.

The government should stop blaming past governments for the crises facing the country. It has completed over three years in office now. People and even its own legislators are not willing to accept its lame excuses. Prices increase on a daily basis and the government has left people at the mercy of hoarders and profiteers. Checking prices is the job of provincial governments but they are helpless before the federal government’s policies. High tariffs of electricity, gas and a weak rupee against the dollar are major causes of inflation in the country.

On the other hand, the PTI lawmakers’ concerns reflect genuine public grievances. People can wait for jobs but they no longer can wait for relief from high prices. The government will have to act now or the opposition will exploit the situation.