The opposition political groups have unfolded an agitation plan to push for the removal of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, making the political future of the country quite uncertain. Recently, the opposition parties formed the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) to dislodge the PTI government spearheaded by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The decision by the opposition parties to launch a “decisive” movement for the ouster of PM Khan is prima facie quite illogical. However, given the level of civilian supremacy in the country, the opposition parties’ movement could be extremely important. Launching a movement against the government of PM Khan is politically nonsensical because what are the grounds for making such a demand? The reason, which the opposition parties, particularly the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of former three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam Fazl faction (JUI-F) of Fazlur Rehman, have protruded to launch a movement to oust the PM Khan government is that his government has a “fake” public mandate. This argument of the opposition parties is based on the premise that the July 2018 national elections were rigged by the country’s establishment in favour of the PTI. The anatomy of the argument reveals that this is totally shallow. Firstly, it was as a result of the election that one of the leading opposition parties, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), won a majority for the third time on the trot in Sindh province and consequently formed a government there. In the rest of Pakistan, the electoral performance of the PPP left a lot to be desired. But it was very much known through opinion polls before the election that the PPP did not stand any chance of winning even a decent number of National Assembly seats. And it happened. Secondly, the PML-N got a majority in the 2018 elections in the Punjab province and even it won more National Assembly seats from the largest province than the ruling PTI. However, it was the PTI performance in the length and breadth of Pakistan that enabled it to get the maximum number of seats in the National Assembly and ultimately it was able to form a government with the help of many small parties. So now if the PML-N claims that the PTI has a fake mandate, then its own political support becomes quite questionable. Thirdly, the JUI-F, which now accuses the present government of holding a “forged mandate” is a real mockery, because PDM head Fazlur Rehman contested the presidential elections soon after the 2018 national elections for which the Electoral College was the members of the National Assembly, four provincial assemblies as well as the Senate of Pakistan. The NA and PAs came into existence as a result of the 2018 elections. So, when the matter was elections for the highest constitutional office of the country, then the Electoral College was perfectly legal for Fazl but now after two years how come it has become fake? Thus, the opposition parties do not have a substantial argument to justify their movement to oust the government of PM Khan.
Indubitably, the immediate cause of the opposition parties’ movement to dislodge the PTI government is corruption cases against nearly all opposition leaders pending with the country’s highest accountability body, National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The cases have entered a decisive phase, whereas former Prime Minister Sharif is already an absconder as he had requested the government to send him to London from jail for treatment but refused to return home despite being perfectly healthy.
Although the opposition does not have a solid and valid argument to demand Prime Minister Imran Khan’s resignation or launch a movement for the ouster of his government, yet its struggle would make the country politically unstable. The government would definitely be under immense pressure once the opposition parties’ movement starts, especially if it gathers significant public support behind it. There are prospects that the opposition parties’ movement would get significant support from the masses. It would not be because the people love the opposition parties but due to the bad performance of the PTI government and its inability to improve the lot of the common people. Moreover, an unprecedented price hike in the country of staple commodities and the government’s failure to increase salaries of government employees as well as to ensure the strict implementation of the minimum wage law in the private sector and on top of it, provide jobs to young people, which have made lives extremely difficult for the majority of Pakistanis. It is the factor that could pull crowds to the rallies and agitation of the PDM. The fact of the matter is that the opposition parties know that the situation of the economy is bad and the conditions for the common people are adverse. Therefore, the opposition parties want to exploit the situation, particularly large-scale anti-government, if not anti-Khan, sentiments of the masses. For the opposition, it may be a very trying time as most of its leading lights are facing quite substantial corruption and misappropriation cases in the country’s courts and the NAB. However, for them it is an opportune time to exploit public sentiments against the government.
However, if the opposition parties fail to gather significant public support in their struggle to dislodge the government, they would not be able to achieve their objectives, though the result would be more political instability in the country. It is important to keep the record straight that if the PTI government has been unable to improve the situation of the economy, it must also be acknowledged that it is an extremely daunting task. Because the state in which PM Khan got the economy after coming to power on August 18, 2018, was extensively and excessively bad. While writing about the future of the PTI government, we had forecast that fixing the economy would be the single most important challenge to PM Khan’s government. It turned out to be really correct as despite several changes on the top, like appointing different persons as Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan and changing financial advisers, the PTI government has not been able to improve the overall shape of the economy. A deeper look into the problem would reveal that despite having good intentions, pervasive incompetence in the PM Khan government has prevented him from improving the economy. However, those who think that any opposition party, whether the PML-N, PPP, JUI-F or ANP etc, could be the panacea for structural problems of governance and the economy in Pakistan, they are grossly mistaken. All these parties have had their chief executives in Pakistan and provinces but the governance they displayed was extremely bad. So, when the old political parties (now all in the opposition) do not have what it takes and the PTI government, despite PM Khan’s personal good intention to improve the condition of institutions and the economy, could not do so, something out-of-the-box has to be envisioned and this is a system change, from parliamentary to presidential system.