Pakistan is in a state of extreme uncertainty and fear – fear of the unknown. Nobody knows what will happen next. There is a sense of foreboding in the air. How long will the present government last? Will elections be held soon or next year? These and similar questions are in the public mind. And no definite answer is coming from any quarter.
Pakistan has gone through a period of serious political crisis. Imran Khan as prime minister is no more, and in place of the PTI, the PDM has formed the new government. After several weeks of action and reaction from the government and the opposition side, the deepening constitutional crisis was solved through timely intervention by the Supreme Court following which the no-confidence motion was put to vote and Imran Khan was ousted.
But the situation remains as volatile and unstable as before.It is not clear how the new coalition government works as it is composed of about a dozen parties with competing and clashing interests. What brought them together was their opposition to Imran Khan but that glue is no more. Now begins the hard task of governance. Some coalition partners have already begun making dissenting noises. With international commodity prices rising, there is no way inflation can be controlled any time soon.
On the other hand, ousted Imran Khan is on a roll. He has gone to the streets and is holding massive rallies telling his supporters that he was de-seated through a conspiracy hatched by his political rivals with the support of foreign forces hostile to Pakistan. He is selling the victim card and his narrative is evoking a response in the length and breadth of the country. He is also hammering his usual theme of a corrupt political group having captured the ramparts of power. He has named the PDM government as an imported one.
The country is totally polarized and tensions are high. The situation is far from settling down. The new government is on a course to file cases against Imran Khan, President Alvi and former NA Speaker Asad Qaiser. There is talk of bringing charges of violation of the Constitution under Article 6. If court proceedings start on these lines, there will be a violent reaction from PTI supporters, a majority of whom are the youth of the country.
The PTI government was sent packing because of its inexperience, incompetence and lack of good governance. But the way it was removed has raised many questions about the future of democratic stability in the country. The PDM has come to power through an artificially manufactured majority put together through defections and horse trading. The allied parties also broke away from the PTI government under invisible pressure. This is how a properly elected government was brought down. The no-confidence motion was the first of its kind in Pakistan’s history, and a door has been opened through which any group of disgruntled and power hungry politicians can switch sides to blackmail or topple a sitting government.
The new PDM government, which has come to power, has many question marks against it. More than 70 percent of its 35-strong ministers are on bail from the courts which sent a wrong signal to the outside world. There has also been strong criticism in the media of father Shehbaz Sharif as Prime Minister and his son Hamza Shahbaz as Chief Minister of Punjab. This has been characterised as further strengthening of dynastic politics in Pakistan which is surely not a good sign for the growth of democratic culture in Pakistan.
In the meantime the economy is sinking deeper into crisis. The rupee is daily losing its value against the dollar and forex reserves are fast dwindling. The IMF has imposed new stringent conditions, including an increase in fuel prices. This will unleash a new wave of inflation putting the common man’s budget under severe strain. Shehbaz Sharif has visited Saudi Arabia in search of emergency aid but how much such temporary support will sustain the economy is an open question.
Analysts predict that things will hot up in the coming months. Elections are still over a year away. Sane voices are calling for early elections as a way to extricate the country from the present state of uncertainty and fear of more chaos ahead. But from the government’s side there are no signs that it has any plans to go for early polls.