The so-called Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) of the opposition has fallen apart after threatening the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan for months. The collapse was not unexpected because rifts existed in the 11-party alliance over resignations from assemblies and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) could have been the biggest loser if it had accepted the demand of other allies, which have no stake in the system. However, the government still faces huge challenges to reduce inflation, unemployment and improve governance to provide meaningful relief to people.
All allies wanted the PPP to leave the Sindh government before launching a “long march” on Islamabad against the federal government. It is obvious that PDM head Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif and other opposition parties and their leaders have no stake in the system and they want to disrupt it at any cost. They fear their interests will be badly hurt and they would have to face corruption cases if the system remains intact. They are even targeting the establishment and courts for personal gains. Like Nawaz Sharif, Fazlur Rehman’s open agenda is to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign and announce fresh elections through efforts to malign national institutions and put pressure on them.
Ousting Prime Minister Imran Khan is Fazlur Rehman’s personal agenda, because he believes his politics cannot flourish in his presence. He had also alleged massive rigging in the 2008 and 2013 elections but accepted their results happily because he was offered a role in the government by the PPP and the PML-N. He also contested the presidential election after the 2013 election but resorted to agitation when he failed to claw back into the power corridors.
The opposition alliance, under Fazl, started an anti-government movement with impressive public gatherings. It also won almost all by-polls and embarrassed the government with the victory of its candidate in the Senate for an Islamabad general seat, which forced Prime Minister Imran Khan to take a fresh vote of confidence from the National Assembly. However, the government turned the table on the opposition in the election for the Senate chairman and deputy chairman. The election sharpened rifts among the major component parties in the opposition.
The PDM had planned to launch an anti-government “long march” on March 26, but it was postponed because the PPP was not willing to resign from assemblies and other allies believed the protest would be ineffective without en bloc resignations. The PML-N also thinks the PPP has benefitted from the PDM struggle, while it could not make substantial gains from it, except winning a few by-elections. On the other hand, the PPP leadership believes the PML-N wants to use its resignations for the personal benefits of its leaders. Veteran politician Aitzaz Ahsan said Nawaz Sharif wanted the PPP legislators to resign and its leaders to go to jail while his own party was not willing to step down and he himself was staying abroad. Fazlur Rehman left a press conference hurriedly after announcing the postponement of the “long march”, expressing his anger and frustration at the PPP, which he believed had betrayed the opposition. On the other hand, the PPP had never promised to resign from assemblies, even though it said the resignations would be “nuclear weapons”.
The opposition alliance appears to have lost steam, but it still can mount pressure on the government by holding a “long march,” which can even last for a few days. However, the PPP may avoid it because it has never been in its favour for many reasons. Some analysts believe Fazlur Rehman is acting on an offensive policy against national institutions to extract some space for himself and other opposition parties. The PML-N and the PPP chose Fazlur Rehman as their leader for his ability to use religion in politics. He is the true representative of the ideology of Nawaz Sharif. Like Nawaz Sharif, he has no stake in the system and no fear to lose. He wants to use all options for his political gains. He will not even hesitate from dividing the nation on sectarian lines. He will continue to target national institutions to achieve his political ambitions because he thinks it is the only option left for him. According to government ministers, two Muslim countries and India are funding the movement to pave the way for Nawaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan and quash cases against him.
It appears the opposition’s protest movement will not be able to force the government to step down and hold fresh elections. On the other hand, Senate elections have taken place and the PTI has become the largest party in the House, displacing the PML-N. It has also solved the ruling party’s problem to pass laws in the Upper House, which was earlier controlled by the opposition. The government may not have won a majority in the Senate, but it is in a position now to call sessions of both Houses together to pass laws, which it has not been able to do since its installation. In this way, Prime Minister Imran Khan can reform the system and improve governance.
At the time, 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. It has completed over a half of its term and it is still groping in the dark. It is disheartening to listen to the prime minister, who says he needed many months to understand the issues of the country and people. He should have prepared himself for it when he was in the opposition. However, he still has time to improve his performance and serve people.