FeaturedNationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 18

No-confidence move: A battle for political survival

Hypocrisy is the name of the political game now being played in the country. Our politics has always been devoid of morality but the latest turn in events has beaten all previous records of political skullduggery and blackmailing for petty short-term gains at the cost of long-term institutional stability. Principles, scruples and values have been thrown to the four winds, as every political group is up for sale, given the right price.

The ongoing political tamasha in the country is giving democracy a bad name. Since the announcement of a no-confidence move, various political parties are busy holding open and secret negotiations with their allies as well as their bitter rivals to cotton together new combinations to derive the maximum advantages for themselves. Every politician is speaking with a forked tongue as positions are changing overnight in the hope of driving a better bargain the next day. From day one, the opposition parties, especially the PML-N and PPP, have been trying to give the PTI government a hard time and made no bones about their desire to topple it at the earliest. They have been joined in their battle by Maulana Fazlur Rahman of the JUI, who after his defeat in the last elections, is desperate to bounce back to power by any means fair or foul. He is the leading voice of the opportunistic opposition alliance known as the Pakistan Democratic Movement and the main strategist behind the various political moves to challenge the incumbent government. He has organised numerous public meetings and rallies, including an abortive long march and sit-in in Islamabad about two years ago.

Every party in the opposition has its political agenda and its own axe to grind. Their interests diverge widely but they all agree on one-point agenda which is to oust Imran Khan from power. The PML-N and the PPP are sold on this agenda because they think that they can save their skin from the ongoing corruption cases against them only if the PTI government is toppled. As for Maulana Fazlur Rahman, his return to the seat of power is possible only after new elections.

The PTI emerged as the single largest party in the 2018 elections but did not win a sufficient number of parliamentary seats to form a government on its own. Perforce, it had to seek the cooperation of smaller parties to form the government at the Centre – the PML-Q from Punjab, MQM and GDA from Sindh and BAP from Balochistan. In return the smaller parties got a share in power, including federal ministries.

The no-confidence move tabled by the opposition cannot succeed without the support of the allies of the PTI government and that is the game which is now on. The PML-Q has its eyes long set on the chief minister’s slot in Punjab and is making a bid for it now that the PTI government is battling for survival. As for the MQM, it wants its own pound of flesh. Reportedly, it has asked for the governorship of Sindh which is said to have been promised by the PPP. Politics make strange bedfellows – an axiom which we are now seeing in practice. There is no love lost between the PPP and the MQM in Sindh. The latter has always complained of rough treatment by the ruling PPP government in Sindh.

But now the two are playing ball. Similar is the case in Punjab. The PML-N and the PML-Q are traditional rivals. But reportedly the PML-N despite being the second largest party in the provincial assembly has agreed to offer chief ministership to the smaller party. The PPP and the PML-N have levelled serious charges of corruption against each other but for the moment they have joined hands against their common tormentor, Imran Khan.

On his part, Imran Khan is also partly responsible for the trouble he is facing. Not a politician in the traditional Pakistani mould, he has not yet learned the art of hypocrisy which passes for smart politicking in our society. He is also headstrong and lacks the kind of flexibility necessary for survival in Pakistani politics. His decision to appoint Usman Buzdar as Punjab chief minister and keep him on despite opposition from within the party has disappointed and antagonized many of his closest companions. It is no secret that not only the opposition but many of his party men would be happy to see Buzdar go.

Whether the no-confidence move succeeds or not is an open question. Maybe, PTI’s allies ultimately decide not to part ways but there are reports of some of PTI legislators in secret and open talks with the opposition who may vote in favour of the no-confidence motion. That is the real challenge Imran Khan faces now.