FeaturedNationalVOLUME 14 ISSUE # 20

The opposition smells blood

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) have announced launching a joint movement against the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan after Eid. Their stated aim is to save the system and economy from “wrong policies” of the government, but their prime object is to rescue their top leaders from corruption cases.


The opposition believes it is the time to launch a full-fledged campaign against the government over its “wrong policies.” The time could not be more appropriate for the opposition because the economy is in disarray, the rupee has shed its value by one-third in nine months and prices of essentials have skyrocketed. There is a general impression in the country that the government has no control over the economy and the situation will worsen in coming weeks.


The opposition wants to exploit the situation but their leaders are not in a position to launch a long movement against the government. The PML-N faces implosion because its leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in jail and the party’s president, Shahbaz Sharif, is in London and he will think many times before coming to Pakistan because of a number of corruption cases against him and fresh evidence found by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).


In a recent informal interview to columnist Javed Chaudhry, National Accountability Bureau Chairman Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal claimed that Shahbaz Sharif had offered him a deal through an unnamed intermediary. The Sharifs were willing to chip in a substantial amount of cash to be deposited by a “foreign country” in return for a pardon. However, the deal fell through, as some of the conditions were not acceptable to the brothers or the NAB chairman. Even if Shahbaz Sharif returns, the party may not be able to put up a decent show, as proved in many past events. Another problem for the party is that it has no supporters except in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They, too, do not take to the streets, when the party needs them. The same is case with the PPP. It is limited to rural Sindh only. Its leadership is also facing corruption cases, which are in the final stages. In the absence of its leadership, it will be difficult for the party to launch a movement.


Faced with corruption cases, the PPP leadership has hinted at launching a movement against the PTI government many times. Few months ago, PPP leader Asif Zardari had said he would put Islamabad under siege and throw Prime Minister Imran Khan and his team out of the parliament. Meanwhile, on the directions of party leader Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N is devising a mechanism of launching an anti-government movement after Eid. The PML-N is likely to launch the movement after the announcement of the budget. The party leadership believes the PTI government will present a tough budget and impose more taxes, as per the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditions, which would make it easier for it to bring people to the streets. The party has planned its movement in phases, starting from public meetings at division level, then rallies and finally sit-ins.

The opposition parties put up a grand show at an Iftar dinner hosted by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in Islamabad. It was the first occasion when Bilawal and Maryam Nawaz met face to face as key leaders of their respective parties. The daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif led a delegation of her party. The PML-N delegation was personally received by the PPP chairman upon its arrival at Bilawal House. He greeted Maryam and embraced Hamza Shahbaz.


Analysts say Maryam Nawaz will have to play an active role to save her party in the absence of her father and uncle. The opposition, with its back to the wall, has no option but to launch a movement against the government. However, the ruling party appears to be unfazed by the threats. There is a feeling in the PTI that any protest movement jointly or separately launched by any opposition party will not be impressive because their leaders are facing corruption cases and they only want to save their skin by threatening the government.


Despite high inflation and a deteriorating economy, a majority of Pakistanis have a favourable opinion of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s individual performance after his first nine months in power, according to a recent poll conducted by Gallup Pakistan. The survey shows that 58pc people are satisfied with the individual performance of Imran Khan as prime minister. However, the survey showed that the performance of the PTI government in the economy was weaker than the PML-N government. Some 51pc people thought the PML-N government’s performance in the economy was better than the current government. According to the survey, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar is performing better than the chief ministers of other provinces. In the survey, 37pc respondents believe that the performance of Usman Buzdar is positive.


The PTI believes the PPP and PML-N are reacting after their failure to get a National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)-like deal or concession from the government. Most analysts do not see any immediate threat to the government, because they think the establishment is firmly behind it and the opposition parties are still divided on many issues and they are not in a position to create problems for the government. They say most people still believe the country is facing the fallout of wrong policies and corruption of the past governments and the opposition will not be able to continue its protest for long, even if it succeeded to launch it.