Imran plays his card

ByMalik Nasir Mahmood Aslam

Seasoned social activist

Dated

December 3, 2022

Imran plays his card

Malik Nasir Mahmood Aslam describes an intelligent
strategy

It was widely believed that after the premature end of his highly anticipated Haqeeqi Azadi March, Imran plays his card and may lose the level of influence he hitherto commanded with his strong support base. But much to the chagrin of his detractors Imran Khan caught them on the wrong foot by declaring that he wants to come out of the present electoral system and would advise his public representatives, both in federal and provincial assemblies, to quit them so that field gets open for fresh elections. This tactic rendered useless all the preparations made by the federal government to face the impending PTI march by besieging and relaxed the tense atmosphere in Rawalpindi also. This decision also shifted the focus of political activity to Lahore where Imran Khan is safely ensconced under the watch of his coalition government and he expects that the Punjab CM along with CM KP would do his bidding and dissolve the provincial assemblies.

In a curious twist Imran Khan’s surprise decision came in the wake of change of command at the Pakistan army that has principally altered the scenario. Imran Khan’s latest move to dissolve the provincial assemblies may have pushed the ruling coalition into a corner but it has also intensified the political confrontation and deepened the chaos. The former prime minister can force the government to agree to an election date a few months earlier than the end of the National Assembly term. But it is doubtful that this would calm matters. A major question is whether the warring sides can sit together to agree on a mechanism for free and fair elections. More important is how to deal with the worsening economic crisis and the resurgence of militancy that present a serious threat to national security.

Many observers have opined that in the current circumstances, it is a good political move no matter what the government says and that Imran Khan used the best possible political option available to him. This decision was taken in the backdrop of the fact that the government had long been asking Imran Khan to legitimise his demand for new elections by dissolving the assemblies where he was himself in power. With this decision Imran Khan has ended that argument of his political opponents and now his moral position on this matter is very strong. By doing so Imran Khan has managed to make himself relevant again. Some observers though point out that Imran Khan’s decision not to go to Islamabad was a de-escalation and potentially conciliatory step.

In a way the crux of the agitation was targeted against the then-army high command and once it changed hand then it became quite obvious that some radical shift in the policy direction of PTI was required. The shift in power axis made it futile for the PTI to keep on hammering on the same formula and a profound change of perception was required. It became clear that the PTI leadership urgently requires cashing on the intense popularity enjoyed by Imran Khan currently as in political arena things change fast and same is applicable to popularity. Anyway, the political activity in the country may lose its meaning and credibility if PTI walks out of the system as it is currently the major political stakeholder and its representative position cannot be denied at all.

Despite the decision of Imran Khan to come out of the electoral system the intricacies of political movement are cumbersome and may take time to resolve. Though there should not be any complication with the two chief ministers on board but nothing can be taken for granted until it actually takes place on the ground. It must be kept in view that notwithstanding its claims the ruling coalition at the centre seems to have no power to block the dissolution as the option of governor’s rule may not be effective in this situation and this option has proved futile in the past. Indeed, the dissolution of the provincial assemblies will not constitutionally bind the federal government to dissolve the National Assembly and call for general elections but elections in the two provinces within 90 days would change the entire political dynamics.

Whatever the end result of the current tussle it is quite certain that political instability may remain the order of the day for a while. In this scenario the most alarming is the impending economic collapse and looming threat of sovereign default. It has become quite clear that the myth of invincibility surrounding the incumbent finance minister has simply failed and he appears clueless as far as delivering the country out of the current financial mess. There is hardly any doubt that the country is on a consistent economic downward slide that has shown no signs of improving. TW

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