NationalVOLUME 16 ISSUE # 06

Pakistan’s troubled politics

The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), consisting of eleven opposition parties, has started staging its gatherings across the country against the PTI’s “incompetent” government and the establishment. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N, ex-President Asif Zardari’s PPP and Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s JUI-F are leading the opposition alliance.

On October 16, the PDM held its public gathering in Gujranwala. Then, it staged another public gathering in Karachi on Oct 18. In both gatherings, a galaxy of leaders from the opposition alliance addressed large crowds. There is no doubt about it that thousands of people were present in both rallies. However, the Gujranwala rally will be remembered in the history of Pakistan due to the speech of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. After a silence of almost one year, Nawaz Sharif publicly criticised not only PM Imran Khan but also the Army Chief and the ISI DG for allegedly destabilising the democratic process in Pakistan. In his speech, Nawaz Sharif mindlessly blamed Army Chief Qamar Bajwa and ISI Chief General Faiz Hameed for the removal of his government. He claimed that they would have to answer for it. He blamed General Niazi for the tragic Dhaka surrender. Nawaz Sharif has openly challenged the military establishment’s role in Pakistan. After MQM’s Altaf Hussain, Nawaz Sharif has spoken openly against the army and its role and analysts say his fate will not be different from Altaf. Ominously, other leaders, including Maryam Nawaz, Bilawal Bhutto, Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Mohsin Dawar, etc. are also criticising the army establishment for “anti-democratic activities.” However, their speeches and accusations are less hard than Nawaz Sharif’s. But, they are openly declaring that Imran Khan and his PTI government were brought to power by the establishment. They are urging that the support should be stopped.

The presence of sizeable crowds and the tone and tenor of the speeches delivered by the PDM leaders in both gatherings clearly suggest that political activities and division will increase in the coming days. The PDM parties will keep upping the ante against the PTI government and the establishment during their chalked out four-month plan. Keeping in view the plan, the PDM’s strategy is very clear. It has already started its campaigns with big public gatherings. It will continue to hold public gatherings across the length and breadth of the country in the next two months. Then, the PDM will start holding rallies and street protests in December. And finally, after achieving its climax and full public support, it will start a “long march” to D Chowk, Islamabad, to besiege the parliament. The opposition might tender mass resignations from federal and provincial parliaments to trigger constitutional lockdown.

Interestingly, the PDM’s leadership is in the hands of Maulana Fazlur Rahman, who has the support of religiously-motivated followers. They could do anything on the call of their leader. If they come out, the organs of the state would face a tough resistance from them. And, there is every possibility that the country might plunge into the mess of instability. This is the final target of the PDM leaders, especially Nawaz Sharif and Fazlur Rahman, who want to remove the PTI government at any cost.

In Karachi’s gathering, Nawaz Sharif, very shrewdly, did not deliver a speech, because he knows that he has already achieved his target of maligning the establishment. The world media, especially the Indian media, has already flashed his anti-army points. But, other leaders mentioned the army in a mild way.

There is no doubt about it that the sole purpose of the PDM gatherings is to protect their leaders’ corruption by destabilising the PTI government. It is not a movement that has been launched to protect the fundamental rights of the people. The movement has no link with the spirit of true democracy and pro-people policies. It is just an effort to save its corrupt leaders from corruption cases, which are in the final stage. In other words, the PDM is using the issues of soaring prices, high electricity bills, shortages of wheat and sugar etc just to achieve its own partisan interests.

However, it is also a fact that the PTI government has not been able to provide relief to the people. Unfortunately, the problem will worsen in the coming months, because the government would have to hike gas and power tariffs to meet IMF conditions to receive its third tranche of a three year $6b structural adjustment programme. If the government does not fulfil the IMF targets by raising gas, petrol and electricity prices and increasing tax collection, it may simply leave the country in 2021. If the IMF exits, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and other international finance institutions will also leave. If it happens, poverty, unemployment and inflation will increase in the country.

On the external front, Pakistan is also facing grave threats. Moeed Yusuf, National Security Advisor, has warned that India is trying to fan sectarian conflict and terrorism in the country. It is also supporting Baloch insurgency and hybrid warfare. Many Pakistani soldiers have already laid down their lives in recent terror attacks. Relations with Saudi Arabia and OIC countries are not good. America and the Western world do not like the CPEC project.

Unfortunately, Imran Khan’s government is doing nothing to tackle the internal and external threats. The government will have to address the inflationary pressures and soaring prices of wheat, sugar and medicines. Otherwise, people might come out with the PDM to destabilise the country. If it happens, the establishment will be forced to intervene to save the government or remove it from power. It is really a testing time for the people of Pakistan and democracy.