Politics in Pakistan remain as unclear as ever
Unimaginable devastation caused by unprecedented floods in most parts of Pakistan along with over 1,500 deaths has not been able to change the selfish mindset of the country’s political parties.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which is the biggest opposition party at the central level, is continuing periodical rallies in various cities to mount pressure on the ruling coalition to hold early elections.
Party chairman Imran Khan is not willing to hold talks with the government unless elections are among the agenda items.
The 11-party Shehbaz Sharif government, on the other hand, insists that it will not hold elections in the prevailing situation when some 33 million people have been badly affected by the natural calamity. Various ministers say the elections will be held in August next year.
The rival positions of the two sides are stoking political confrontation, as a result of which, barring some miracle, peace is not in sight in the foreseeable future.
However, unconfirmed reports circulating in the country say that the PTI is now in contact with Pakistan’s powerful military to chalk out a strategy to de-fuse the situation.
Former interior minister Sheikh Rashid, whose one-seat party – Awami Muslim League- is an ally of the PTI, has been quoted saying that the outcome of the behind-the-scene talks will be clear by the middle of October.
Whatever the result of these talks, for the time being, more people are waiting for the appointment of a new army chief.
Whoever dons the mantle of army chief is expected to do his best to restore peace at home.
Former prime minister Imran Khan had suggested recently that the most important appointment should be left to the new elected government, implying that General Bajwa should continue to hold the coveted position till then. However, the PDM leadership is understood to have made up its mind to bring a new man for this post, putting aside the PTI’s advice.
Consultations are going on between the PDM leaders for the selection of the new army boss.
Whoever dons the mantle is expected to do his best to restore peace at home in addition to grappling with the thorny problems the country is in the grips of. He is expected to advise political leaders on both sides of the aisle to realize the gravity of the situation and hold talks to solve problems.
However, before the new COAS takes over, efforts have been stepped up by the opposition parties to change the PTI-backed government in Pakistan’s biggest province Punjab.
For this purpose, the Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Ata Tarar has been quoted as saying that his party is in contact with about 20 PTI legislators.
Adept in political wheeling and dealing, former president Asif Ali Zardari is also making all possible efforts for the change of government in Punjab, and there are conflicting reports about the fate of Chief Minister Parvez Elahi.
Some circles say Parvez will stay on with the PML-N’s support. But the PTI will be deprived of the ‘extra fat’ in the legislature.
However, other sources say the ruling PML-N and Elahi are poles apart and there is no possibility of the chief minister joining hands with the Sharifs’ party.
The PTI is supporting Elahi as a strategy to block the chances of the reunification of the PML-Q and PML-N.
As for the timing of the next general elections, the PML-N will not like to take a risk until its supreme leader Nawaz Sharif returns home. He is the real crowd puller and the party feels rejuvenated as well as reinvigorated in the presence of the three-time former prime minister.
Sharif has been in London for the past three years.
So far, there are no signs of him returning home. The party has yet to apply for his protective bail to save him from being arrested on landing in Pakistan.
The PML-N will also not like to hold elections in the prevailing situation because it is totally unfavorable for the exercise.
The scenario is getting exceedingly murky. Prices of essential items are beyond the reach of the common man. The same is the situation with power tariffs. People are holding protests against the price hike. But despite this daunting backdrop, the political play is never ending.
- The writer is a senior and veteran journalist with a career spanning 40 years with major national and international newspapers.