NationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 11

The opposition’s overworking rumour mills

The opposition parties have resorted to different tactics to create political instability in the country. Besides threats of agitation, they create rumours of rifts between the establishment and the government and coalition partners. Every two months, they create an impression that the government has lost the trust of the establishment and its coalition partners and it would fall in a few weeks. In fact, the opposition’s rumour mills had started working soon after the installation of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government (PTI) government of Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2018. Some analysts linked to the opposition parties believed the government would fall in its first three months. However, their predictions have proved wrong and the government has survived all odds.

The opposition parties believe they can keep the government on its toes through rumours only. It is also their only option to keep the hopes of their workers and voters alive. After a few months, they plant stories in the media through their favourite anchors and journalists that a deal is about to be struck to oust the PTI government. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has been on the forefront to create speculations. Its only aim is to foment rifts between the establishment and the government and its coalition partners. It is a clever tactic to hide its internal rifts and widening cracks.

Every few weeks, the PML-N comes out with plans to bring a no-confidence against the PTI governments in Punjab and the Centre. It claims to have the support of 29 PTI MNAs but still has not been able to topple the government. The same is the case in Punjab; it claims it has the backing of dozens of PTI MPAs but it has failed to bring a no-confidence motion against the Buzdar government. People are informed that it is former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s “principled” stance that his party is not bringing no-confidence motions against Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. It is all rubbish. Everybody knows that the PML-N would not waste a second to bring down the PTI governments in the Centre and Punjab if it really had the means.

Recently, the PML-N created rumours through its favourite anchors and journalists that it has struck a deal with the establishment to oust the PTI government. According to the story, representatives of the establishment held talks with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in London. It claimed that at least three friendly countries were also involved in the process because they were “worried” about Pakistan’s “poor” economic conditions and the government’s “go-slow” policy on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It claimed the PML-N supremo had set tough conditions for bringing about an in-house change. “Nawaz Sharif demanded that the allies of the PTI government must quit the ruling coalition first for his party to consider bringing a no-confidence motion in the National Assembly. Second, he wanted elections to be held in three months after an in-house change,” it claimed. The story, quoting sources, said the “other side” has reservations about Maryam Nawaz. Besides, the two sides could not settle matters regarding cases against the Nawaz Sharif family.

However, the establishment has popped its balloon. The Pakistan Army termed talks of any deal between the military leadership and Nawaz Sharif baseless. “I will say these are mere speculations. Ask this question from those who talk about such things,” Major General Babar Iftikhar, the ISPR Director General, said while rejecting reports of any agreement between the establishment and Nawaz Sharif. The ISPR DG maintained that it would be in national interest “if we talk less about such things.” He once again asked the media to keep the institution of the armed forces away from such discussions. “On every evening on television, it is said that the establishment has done this and that. Civil-military relations are not any issue. I have said it time and again that the armed forces are a subservient institution to the Pakistan government and act on its directives and there is no more than this,” he added. He reiterated that they had been telling the media time and again that the armed forces should be kept out of such discussions. “There are other important issues like health, education, population growth, agriculture growth and infrastructure development which should be discussed,” he suggested.

Earlier, former President Asif Zardari also claimed of being approached by the establishment. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman said he had been asked to offer assistance and share some formula but he told “them” that first the government should be sent packing and then talks could be held. He said that building Pakistan was easy but “they” could neither build the country nor listen and understand the PPP philosophy. “But time will come that they would have to listen, understand and follow our advice,” he said, without naming anyone. However, the defence ministry rubbished his claim and said no one had contacted him for help.

It is clear that the main opposition parties are creating rumours to keep themselves afloat and their workers motivated. They blame the PTI government for “poor” economic conditions while the fact is that Pakistan is facing problems because of their wrong policies. Pakistan’s economy was in a worst condition when the PTI government took power from the PML-N government in 2018. It has improved economic indicators but rising prices and bad governance have badly affected the common man. The government will have to reduce prices and improve governance to win back the support of the common people.