NationalVOLUME 16 ISSUE # 11

Opposition’s new narrative

The opposition has decided to contest by-polls in a bid to stop the government from fortifying its position in the parliament. The move is being seen as softening of the opposition’s stance, which earlier threatened to resign en bloc to pave the way for the government’s ouster.

It is clear that the government has won the first round of the battle with the opposition alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement, which wanted to overthrow the government through rallies and resignations. The opposition held large public rallies but decided against resignations because it believed it would provide a free hand to the government, not only in the remaining term but also in the next six years, when the ruling party and its allies would control the Upper House and create problems for it even if the opposition parties form the government after the next general elections. After exhausting all options, the opposition alliance is left with the only choice: a “long march.”

It is a miracle that the opposition’s alliance has not fallen apart despite being inherently a diverse and disparate union of 11 parties, which aims to remove the PTI government, so that corruption cases against its leaders could be dropped. As the government has failed to perform, the opposition is pushing for fresh elections. It is a fact that if elections are held now, the opposition parties would win by a thumping majority. However, the PTI government still has ample time to improve its performance and win the next elections.

Undoubtedly, the Pakistan Democratic Movement held impressive rallies in the beginning but it has become clear that they were not enough to pressurise the government. Their differences also sharpened as the movement advanced. The PPP had decided against resigning even before the PDM announced it. It is clear that the PPP will not quit the government in Sindh, while it can resign from the National Assembly and the Senate. However, if it leaves the Sindh government, it will become difficult for it to retain it in the next election, because it would give a free hand to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and its allies in the province until 2023, when general elections will be held. On the other hand, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the JUI-F have nothing to lose in the system. They will encourage the PPP to resign from assemblies to serve their own purpose. They want to disturb the system at any cost to create space for their politics. On the other hand, the PPP is also not in favour of a “long march” and it appears the PML-N and the JUI-F would be left alone to “storm” the capital.

It is a fact that the opposition’s rallies started becoming less impressive after the Lahore public meeting. People were attracted to it because they are facing problems of price hike, unemployment and bad governance. They lost interest in the rallies when they saw growing differences among the opposition parties. They also lack an agenda and their only aim is save their leaders from impending conviction in corruption cases. It was disappointing for the opposition to attract only a few hundred people to its Bahawalpur rally. It prompted Prime Minister Imran Khan and his team of spokespersons to adopt an aggressive stance against the opposition. He said that the PDM was no more a threat to the government.

However, analysts say though the government has won the first round, yet the threat of the opposition is not over. They believe the announcement to participate in the upcoming Senate election and by-polls indicates unshakable unity in the ranks of the opposition alliance. The new stance is being seen as a promising indicator of its flexibility to keep the alliance intact. The 11-party alliance will contest by-elections on two National Assembly seats and six provincial assembly seats despite some of the members expressing reservations. It is clear that other parties in the alliance had to change their opinion after the PPP unilaterally decided to contest the by-polls. In this way, they have saved the alliance from falling apart.

As the stance of Maulana Fazl hardens, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has come up with “proof” of his alleged corruption. According to government documents, he owns several properties in Dera Ismael Khan, Islamabad, Karachi, Quetta and Dubai. He owns two houses and five acres of agricultural land in DI Khan, a bungalow in F-8 Islamabad and an apartment in Dubai. The JUI chief also owns commercial properties in Karachi and Quetta. He owns a house, a madrassa and five acres of land in Shorkot as well. Recently, he bought and sold land worth Rs 3 billion in Chak Shahzad, Islamabad. He also owns commercial land worth Rs 4.7 million in Abdul Khel, DI Khan, and Shorkot.

As the opposition’s threat subsides, the biggest challenge to the government comes from its inability to solve public issues. High prices and unemployment are the biggest issues facing the common people. The government has miserably failed to address them. In fact, it has compounded them with its inaptness and bad governance. The government has completed almost half of its term and it is still clueless. It is disheartening to listen to the prime minister, who says he needed many months to understand the issues of the country. He should have prepared himself for it when he was in the opposition. However, he still can improve his performance and win the next election.