Muhammad Arif : Chairman Centre of Advisory Services for Islamic Banking and Finance (CAIF), Former Head of FSCD SBP, Former Head of Research ArifHabib Investments and Member IFSB Task Force for development of Islamic Money Market, Former Member of Access to Justice Fund Supreme Court of Pakistan

Every country has its government and opposition. Somewhere Despotic setups also exist. However mainly it is conceived that opposition is meant for constructive suggestions.

But now in second half of CY 2020 and after two years of PTI government it is apparent that tussle is going on self conceived perception i.e. to send leadership of opposition behind the bar and to continue pressure tactics by opposition to dislodge the government.

Pakistan in its 74 years history has seen military dictators in its more than 40 years of rule. After 2008 at the end of Musharraf regime it was thought that we may have some kind of democracy but still we are far behind this dream.

 Now country is looking in chaos. In country monsoon has brought havocs and lot of flooding. India has opened its rivers to flow in Pakistan that were given by Ayub Khan to India in 1963 under Indus Basin Treaty agreement.

Karachi in last week of August has become part of Arabian Sea. People are lying under open sky with their homes dipped in feets of water. Here PPP government is being blamed for this situation. But factually it was MQM under Altaf Hussein who ruled the Karachi like Chengez Khan, built homes on drainage canals to mint money. Its office bearers became billionaires through china cutting and now Karachi is in sufferings. Nobody can change this scenario within days or months. PPP who has ruled on Karachi as part of Sind is also part of this havoc since anterior Sind is also under feets of water with no recovery. Here we need close collaboration of Federal and Provincial government but that is also missing apart from telephonic conversations. Only Edhi, JI workers are being seen with no one from tiger force of Imran Khan.

Pakistan’s main opposition parties time and again announce to formulate a joint strategy to remove the current political party from power. But this is just for bargaining. However, the real question is whether the parties can dislodge the (PTI) government, even if they launch a joint front. Of course not, not before its 5 years tenures. This is not the first time that opposition parties have decided to launch anti-government protests. In May 2019, the heads of both parties made a similar declaration, citing growing inflation as a key reason for their agitation against the government. However, the PML-N and the PPP didn’t make a move on their announcement and rather decided to bring a motion to remove the ruling party’s chairman in the upper house of Parliament. The motion failed to remove the chairman of the Senate even after both parties had a clear majority. Following the failure of the motion, the PML-N accused the PPP of colluding with the security establishment to gain political favor.

In October 2019, the PPP and the PML-N, in coordination with the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), once again announced they would mobilize the public against the government. That round of agitation was framed around a sit-in the capital, supposed to last until Prime Minister Imran Khan tendered his resignation. Once the agitation got underway, the PPP and the PML-N’s reluctance to take further action became obvious; JUI-F’s leadership and workers were left alone in the capital. Khan didn’t resign.

In February 2020, the PPP and the PML-N yet again announced a phase of anti-government protests. Fast forward to July 2020 and another movement is being planned by the opposition parties to topple the government.

In Pakistan’s politics, agitation against elected governments generally happens due to either the interference of undemocratic forces or an opposition party’s inability to ward off institutional pressures and gain favors from institutions that matter in the country.

In the current case, the PML-N and PPP’s leaders are facing serious allegations of corruption. For more than a year, both parties have sought relief from the government and its supporters in the security establishment regarding growing pressure from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the institution leading investigations against the two parties. This is one of the reasons that the PML-N and the PPP have not moved against the ruling party beyond threats of leading an agitation.

However, the PPP and the PML-N have not received any relief and if anything, the government has pushed for a stern approach to bring both parties to “justice.” By now, it has become clear to the PML-N and the PPP that as long as the current government remains in office, their chances of gaining political relief are nil.

This is not the first time that Sharif has refused to support PML-N factions that want an aggressive approach against the military-supported government of the PTI. Sharif’s halfhearted support for his brother and the founder of the PML-N, Nawaz Sharif, was visible when he arrived back in Pakistan in 2018. Sharif is also known to have undermined the PPP and PML-N alliance with the JUI-F to unseat Khan in November 2019.

In the current milieu, this means that the ruling party still enjoys the support of the national security establishment. And leading an action against the government could mean leading a movement against the military’s selection in the civilian domain. Adopting this approach could have serious implications for any party or leader’s political life in Pakistan.

As of now, it remains unclear if any political party, including the PPP and the PML-N, are ready to take that route. Making statements for the removal of the government is one thing; it may not anger people in powerful places. Leading a nationwide agitation is an altogether different story.

Arguably, both political parties are making another effort at using the threat of a potential alliance to strike a deal with the national security establishment. But any such respite is unlikely to come: With the question of the 18th amendment fate’s hanging in the balance, the costs of making a compromise with the government and its support base in the military have only gone up. The PPP and the PML-N will have to make some hard choices in the coming weeks and months.

The leaders of both political parties remain skeptical of each other in terms of who may end up making a deal first with the country’s national security establishment. Thus, the perpetual game of hide and seek by self-seeking politicians will continue to go on in the months to come. However by looking in to flooded Karachi and other cities if all federal and provincial governments can rehabilitate local bodies system than it would be a blessing for the time being.


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