All indications are that things are moving towards a major confrontation between the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government and the opposition.
Observers of the national political scene are of the view that a clash between the government and the opposition looks imminent, particularly after the unseemly events in the parliament a few days ago and the signal reportedly given by Prime Minister Imran Khan to his hawks to give no quarter to his opponents.
On the one hand, PTI leaders are saying that bad days are ahead for the opposition but, on the other, parties opposed to the government have speeded up their preparations to give a hard time to Imran Khan, both inside and outside the parliament. All major opposition parties, including the PML-N, PPP, JUI-F, Jamaat-e-Islami, ANP and others, are uniting on a single platform to formulate a combined strategy against the ruling coalition.
The political temperature in the federal capital is rising with both sides gearing up for the fight ahead. Weeks ago, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had visited Lahore and met PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz to discuss details of an anti-government campaign. The PPP chief had travelled to Lahore on the invitation of Maryam Nawaz for urgent consultations on the emerging political situation in the country. It was a second meeting between two leaders in a month. They had earlier met at an Iftar dinner at the Islamabad residence of Bilawal Bhutto.
Later, Bilawal Bhutto held an important meeting with JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Around the same time, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif visited the JUI-F supremo at his residence. Speaking at a news conference after the meeting, Bilawal said that the opposition would not allow the government to pass the “anti-people budget.”
The Jati Umra meeting between Bilawal Bhutto and Maryam Nawaz has been described by political analysts as a game changer. The meeting sealed the new understanding reached between the two parties, which during the last one year, had failed to overcome the trust deficit between them, thus yielding valuable political space to the PTI. According to media reports, the two parties agreed to mount joint efforts in the parliament to block the passage of the federal budget. They also discussed a joint strategy for a protest movement both in the parliament and outside it after consultation with other parties.
There are other options available to the opposition parties. A few days ago, Maryam Nawaz said that the opposition was considering an in-house change and the removal of Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani. Addressing reporters after visiting the residence of PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique, Maryam said that the government had converted the parliament into a “container.” She predicted that the government of “incompetents” would fall very soon.
Because of rising prices and higher taxes imposed in the new budget, the PTI has lost much of its appeal among the masses. Given the mounting frustration of the general public, an early resort to street protests and the resulting chaos could open the door for the removal of the government and collapse of the system itself.
The political calculus is changing fast. Weeks ago, Bilawal Bhutto, who is now leading the PPP from the front, met BNP leader Akhtar Mengal and representatives of the MQM-P to work out details of an All Parties Conference.
The government is not sitting idle either. Imran Khan is a tough-minded leader. If the opposition forms a grand alliance and starts a movement to oust the government, he will not take things lying down. He will definitely take tough measures to stop any “Long March” on Islamabad. According to media reports, he has already given instructions to the interior ministry and other relevant quarters to deal strictly with any attempt to create a law and order situation in the country. Knowledgeable sources say that currently Imran Khan is more inclined towards the hawkish elements in his party and has even conceded that he took the wrong decision by not showing resistance to the nomination of PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif as Leader of the Opposition as well as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.
The political scene is getting murkier by the day and no one can predict what is in store for the nation in the coming days. If sanity does not prevail on both sides, the outcome may be disastrous for the delicate sapling of democracy which is yet to grow strong root in the country.