Former Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced quitting his party’s governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is a desperate move to force the government to hold early elections. Options for the PTI and the government have further shrunk after the threat and if both sides continue to stick to their guns, it will have serious consequences for the country.
Most analysts believe the threat aims to put pressure on the establishment after the designation of the new army chief. However, the government will still attempt to delay elections as long as possible. There are also reports that the government wants a caretaker setup for at least six months, so that people forget their miseries caused by high inflation and inflated power bills. There are also apprehensions that Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi may not send a summary to the governor to dissolve the assembly, though he says he will not waste a minute to act upon Imran Khan’s advice. There are also chances that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz forms a government in the province after PTI resignations, which will also weaken Imran Khan’s position in national politics and his ability to hold big rallies.
In his aggressive speech at Rawalpindi, Imran Khan said that he had decided against staging a sit-in as he wanted to avoid destruction. Announcing his party’s intention to disassociate itself from the “current corrupt political system” by quitting the assemblies of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, he said a final decision would be taken after consultations with the chief ministers.
Unfazed by the threat, the government says elections will be held on time. However, it will be difficult for it to hold elections on a large number of seats. On the other hand, Imran Khan faces a number of uphill tasks. It is not sure whether he will really be able to achieve his objective and win the general election and even if he wins, it is not sure whether he will be able to perform to the satisfaction of the common people. His first term was a big disaster. It was not different from past governments; rife in price hikes, corruption and bad governance. It was a time when all national institutions were supporting him. He has picked a fight against all of them now. Though his popularity has increased, it is still difficult for him to dictate terms to the present system. In fact, the system is working against him. He continues to target national institutions, particularly the security establishment. It forced the country’s spymaster to hold a rare public appearance at a news conference.
Rumour has it that general elections will be delayed for one year and they could be held in 2024, instead of their scheduled time in 2023. It is feared an emergency could be declared in the country after the law and order would worsen in the coming weeks and months. The way the government behaves it shows it is not in a hurry to announce elections on their scheduled time. Under the plan, governor’s rule could be imposed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, if the law and order continues to deteriorate in the province. A plan has also been finalised to topple the PTI government in Punjab. Under the new plan, 10 to 15 PTI members have been targeted. They have been intimidated and bribed to leave the country. Arrangements are being made to provide them with enough money so that they can settle permanently in Europe. When they leave the country, Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi will be asked to take a vote of confidence. As he will not have the required majority, he would lose his office. On the other hand, the PTI MPAs, who will be absent during the vote of confidence, would not have to face any action from the party. The plan has been fine-tuned after a recent Supreme Court ruling under which no member of parliament can vote against their party lines. In this way, the PML-N will be able to install its own government in Punjab ahead of the arrival of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who wants his party’s government in its home province at any cost, even if it has to lose its government in the Centre, where it feels uncomfortable and being blackmailed by coalition partners. Nawaz Sharif also believes it will be futile to arrive in Pakistan without his party’s government in Punjab, because otherwise he would not be able to use state resources to revive his politics. On the other hand, the parliament will pass a bill, under which lifetime disqualification could be commuted to five years and Nawaz Sharif would become eligible to take part in politics and run for the PM office for the fourth time. On the other hand, it is said Imran Khan would be disqualified to provide a “level playing field” to Nawaz Sharif.
Imran Khan’s announcement of resignations from the two assemblies was shocking to the government and his supporters because his original plan was to besiege Islamabad from all sides. It could have caused immense problems to the government and people. However, he abandoned the plan after he was shot at and injured at Wazirabad. It was clear that he could not have continued his rally and he had to change his strategy. There were also fears about another assassination attempt on his life. Many analysts believe he chose a better option of resignations from the provincial assemblies, though he still can hold rallies, even if his new plan fails.