What now, after Imran Khan’s ‘surprise’

What now, after Imran Khan’s ‘surprise’

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Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Sunday ‘surprise’ has changed the direction of the country’s politics. The Supreme Court has taken suo motu notice of the constitutionality of whatever happened in the National Assembly on the very first day of the holy month of Ramadan and, now, everything depends on its verdict. 
It will be an important verdict as it will determine the limits of the sovereignty of parliament and, possibly, the authenticity of the US ‘threat letter’ which the government calls an interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan and used by the National Assembly speaker as a basis to reject the opposition parties’ no-trust motion against the prime minister. 
New elections in 90 days have been promised by the premier to meet the requirement of the constitution. However, no party, including the PTI, is prepared for the exercise. The announcement of a new manifesto offering a solution to major problems, selection of candidates for all constituencies, and the formation of new alliances to win maximum seats will not be an easy task for the parties to complete in such a short time.  
Ostensibly, the brains behind the ‘surprise’ think that the complexities of the situation will lead to a delay in the fresh balloting. 
As for the gains and losses after the ‘surprise’, it can be said with certainty that the PTI has paid a very heavy price for it.  It has lost its government at the centre; ignoring its own 184 members, it had to offer the chief minister’s post to PML-Q which is a tiny party with only nine seats in the 371-member house. It also lost its allies like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Balochistan Awami Party – a development that will impact the politics of Sindh and Balochistan in the next election. 
The offer to the PML-Q is also expected to bring some political dividends. By offering this bait, the PTI has driven a wedge between the PML-Q and PML-N.  There is little room for them to join hands now, although the PML-N had also offered the same position to Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi (now Speaker) to make the party part ways with the PTI. 
The PTI-PMLQ cooperation may be helpful to both parties, especially in Punjab, the stronghold of the PML-N for more than three decades.

The announcement of a new manifesto, selection of candidates for all constituencies, and the formation of new alliances to win maximum seats will not be an easy task for the parties to complete in such a short time.

Ashraf Mumtaz

The PTI’s continued alliance with the MQM would have been in the interest of both parties at the time of the next polls. However, the PPP has succeeded in taking the MQM along.  This will help the PPP further strengthen its hold on Sindh, a province that is already being continuously ruled by the PPP for the past 13 years. 
Now, the PTI may have to face a difficult situation in Sindh at the time of the next elections as it will have no allies in that province. 
There are speculations that in the changed situation, the PPP will not create any problems for PML-N in Punjab and the latter will reciprocate the same way in Sindh. 
The KP will remain under PTI’s control even in the future. The results of the recent local government elections held there in two phases substantiate this view. 
Imran Khan’s ‘surprise’ and the way he is incessantly assailing the US indicates that relations between Pakistan and the US will not normalize as long as the cricketer-turned-politician is at the helm.  
Pakistan’s military establishment can better assess the implications of this situation for Pakistan. Probably, that’s one of the reasons why it has distanced itself from the PTI government and not stopped the opposition parties from their campaign to dislodge Khan. 
The presence of the top military leadership in the recent parliamentary security committee meeting where the ‘threat letter’ was discussed, and the most powerful institution’s silence at the opposition’s anti-Imran plans indicate that civil-military ties at present are not as they should be.  
The situation that the PTI had to face at the hands of its smaller allies during its rule has a lesson for parliament. It should make it obligatory that only a party with at least 51 seats of its own should form government – at the centre and in provinces.  After such an enactment, smaller parties will disappear from the scene or will merge themselves with major entities. 

This will be the most effective step against the tiny parties’ blackmailing at such a juncture.  

But the problem is that no party in Pakistan is popular enough to win 51 percent seats. The PML-N had got even a two-third majority in a couple of elections, but then the situation changed. 
Parliamentarians are supposed to formulate policies for the country and find solutions to all situations. Backmailing by smaller parties is a major problem in Pakistan’s politics. They should join hands to solve this chronic problem. Otherwise, dependent on smaller parties’ support, the political system will never stabilize and surprises of one kind or the other will have to be experienced by the nation.

— The writer is a senior and veteran journalist with a career spanning 40 years with major national and international newspapers.


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