NationalVolume 12 Issue # 19

PTI pins hopes on Panama probe

According to a recent survey, the popularity of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has increased by 3pc after the Panama case verdict by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. As a joint investigation team (JIT) has started a probe against the ruling family under the supervision of the court, Imran Khan’s party fancies its chances to come to power in the next election. All political parties, except the Jamiat Ulemai-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Muttahid Qaumi Movement (MQM), want an electoral alliance with the PTI. The JUI-F and ANP are beneficiaries of the ruling party and their power base in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has been seriously dented by the PTI. The MQM is ideologically opposed to it. Even the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) seeks seat adjustment with it in the Punjab in the next elections. However, it is waiting for the outcome of the Panama case investigations. If the JIT rules against the Sharifs, the ruling party will lose the Punjab to the PTI. The PPP has bleak chances in the most populous province. According to analysts, dozens of MNAs, MPAs and senators of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) may join a rebellion group, headed by former MNA Suhail Zia Butt, an erstwhile close aide to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Suhail Zia Butt has founded his Aam Admi Party after he was denied a ticket by the ruling party in the last election. He was offered a senior post by the Musharraf government after the military coup in 1999, but he refused. After which he had to face many cases but he firmly stood by the Sharif family. But he was denied a ticket in the last election.

Analysts say he can create serious trouble for the PML-N, especially in Lahore, as almost 40 disgruntled leaders of the party are in contact with him. They include at least three MNAs, a senator and dozens of MPAs. They can pose a serious challenge to the ruling party in the next election. Three more federal ministers are expected to resign after the announcement of resignation of Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Riaz Pirzada. According to sources, many members of the parliament belonging to the ruling party have openly expressed their reservations against alleged corruption of Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Fawad Hasan Fawad. They have sent their complaints against him to the prime minister through their colleagues. The minister’s resignation opened a Pandora’s box against the government. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Principal Secretary was involved in corruption of billions of rupees. It is said one federal minister has submitted his resignation to the prime minister but the latter has delayed action on it. He told the prime minister that many ministers would resign because of the corrupt bureaucrat. It is said two more federal ministers who are expected to resign are from South Punjab and Sindh. Many legislators have also raised voices against the principal secretary during National Assembly sessions. On the other hand, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-i-Azam (PML-Q) President Ch. Shujaat Hussain has started contacting small political, religious and local parties to form a grand alliance against the ruling party. According to party sources, all anti-government parties, except the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), will be invited to join an alliance against the PML-N government in the wake of the Panama case verdict. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and Shujaat Hussain are already in contact with each other. Shujaat is also expected to meet leaders of different factions of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Awami National Party (ANP), Muslim League Functional (Pagara Group) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement in the coming weeks. It is said the grand alliance will become a reality before the budget and a movement would be launched against the government. Lawyers and trade unions will also be part of the alliance. The PPP has launched its “Go Nawaz Go” movement in a bid to highjack the struggle of the PTI.

According to sources, the former president enjoys the complete backing of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to highjack the anti-government campaign, launched by Imran Khan since 2014. After former President Asif Zardari’s return to Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s party had issued welcoming statements, indicating they strictly believe in a two-party system in Pakistan and would collude to defeat the PTI in the next election. Asif Zardari will contact all political parties, including the PTI, to lead the opposition. He will also contact defectors who have mostly joined the PTI. Some claim the PPP will woo back almost all its “electables,” who have joined other parties. It will again raise the issue of the Seraiki province to bag seats in south Punjab. Demands for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation have grown after the Panama case verdict. The PPP, the PTI and the Jamat-i-Islami (JI) have demanded Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign to pave the way for fair investigations by the joint investigation team. According to analysts, the opposition can force the ouster of the prime minister if its members resign from the Senate, National Assembly and four provincial assemblies en bloc. The PPP leads the provincial government in Sindh. The PTI runs the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The PPP has 46 members in a 342-member National Assembly. The PTI has 33 seats in the National Assembly.

In the Senate, the PPP has the highest number of seats, 27, which is one more than the ruling PML-N. The PTI has seven seats in the 104-member Upper House. If the two parties resign from the Senate, National Assembly and provincial assemblies of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the government cannot run its business and will collapse in days. However, most observers say the PPP will not go to such an extent, because it will suit the PTI. On the other hand, PTI Chairman Imran Khan is not willing to forge an alliance with any party at the moment. Many heavyweights of politics in the Punjab are willing to join him. It is said the PPP has proposed to the PTI to jointly wage a struggle against the prime minister after the Panama case verdict. However, Imran Khan is not willing to join hands with the PPP. Sources say big politicians from south Punjab and Sindh may soon join the PTI, which will further increase its popularity. It can win the next election single-handedly, if the Supreme Court disqualifies the Sharifs on the findings of the joint investigation team.