Opposition planned clash or showdown with PTI on last day of October 2019 in Islamabad

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Muhammad Arif
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.

Sane mind cannot think of happening of such an event in capital of Pakistan on 31st Oct 2019 but history of Pakistan tells us different stories.

For the last 73 years we have seen such events many times with tug of war going on behind the scenes. The winners in all such cases have been the establishment of this country. At those points it looked fine but later with passing of some years it appeared that even these changes have pushed back the country by many years. Becoming members of SEATO and CENTO, hanging Bhutto, allowing US forces to invade Afghanistan and finally giving physical bases to US in Musharaf period all went against Pakistan and its people. People, Mostly question that which system can suit Pakistan whether Presidential or Parliamentary but they forget that all those countries where these systems are in vogue they move on with very strict accountability system. This has never happened in case of Pakistan. Further Pakistan is constituent of areas with four different languages and four different cultures. It is not like this in case of US, France or UK. So Pakistan needs a system well designed in 1973 constitution that needs to be preserved, strengthened and supported by additional clauses to make its spirit applicable.

Now after one year the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) seems to be struggling  to prevent the Jamiat Ulma-e Islam (JUI) from staging a massive protest in the capital, Islamabad, toward the end of this month. Many major political parties have either announced their outright support or indicated their willingness to back the campaign.

Dubbed a “freedom march,” the protest will begin on October 27 when protest rallies from across Pakistan are expected to begin marching toward Islamabad. Once in the capital by October 31, the protest is expected to turn into a sit-in in front of the parliament.

The PML-N is the leading opposition party in the parliament and its large support base in the eastern Pakistani province of Punjab might tip the balance in Rehman’s favor. As Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab enjoys a lion’s share in the country’s parliament, bureaucracy, and armed forces.

On October 10, secular Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the second-largest opposition party has also announced its support with public meetings in the coming days.

The Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, a secular ethno-nationalist group with a sizeable support base among the Pashtuns in the southwestern province of Baluchistan has also announced its support for Rehman’s march along with another secular Awami National Party (ANP) with its support base limited to the Peshawar Valley in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is  predominantly populated by ethnic Pashtuns, the Pakistan’s largest ethnic minority.

PTI leaders, however, are keen on demonstrating that they are not impressed by the gathering political storm that is trying to eclipse their 13-month-old government. Senior federal and provincial ministers are keen to point out real or imagined differences among opposition parties while questioning Rahman’s motives.

So far, they, the opposition political parties are not united. Even the PML-N is not fully onboard with Maulana, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told journalists on October 11. There are even two points of view within the Pakistan People’s Party.”

Nevertheless, Pakistan appears to be heading toward a major political showdown. In 2014, the PTI, then an opposition party, partially paralyzed Islamabad by camping out in front of the parliament for more than four months.

So if this movement proceeds than what can be its outcome? There are four options in this regard if the movement heats up. Either as in the past, establishment may intervene but this has little chance as establishment would like to sit behind instead of coming on front of the government. Opposition may like second option that is the change of government within the parliament. This can happen by bringing change within the PTI or by forming a national government. Third option can be to dissolve the assemblies and go for another election. These options can be in favor of opposition parties whereas PTI with lack of governance and highly disturbed economic situation would not like to go for these options. Fourth one is that movement may fizzle out before 27 or after 31st. This actually suits PTI and would strengthen its government for the time being.

One may remember that Fazlur Rehman is a clever political leader and does not like to lose. He had always remained close to PPP or PML N or establishment that suited him in different times. Further PTI leaders by using abusive language and threatening Fazlur Rehamn are increasing political weight of Fazlur Rehman and this he wants.

However basically this movement is neither a peoples movement nor PTI government has the guts to represent people’s aspirations right now. Basically it is like creating some waves for the time being but nobody knows that it may turn in to a thunder storm any time that has very little chance right now.

But from positivity point of views such movements creates awareness among people about their leaders and their narrow thinking limited to their self interest and this paves the way for the thunder storm next time or sometime in the coming days against these leaders and their governments.

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