As freezing cold December is coming to an end, its parting legacy is extremely hot. The emerging situation has pitched Prime Minister Imran Khan’s PTI against major opposition parties PPP, PMLN and JUIF. As things are shaping up for a grand show down before the end of the year, Imran Khan and his PTI are also tightening their belts to take on the Opposition.
Khaki Establishment being the major player, it is still undecided whether to swing this way or that. It is worth noting that Prime Minister Khan is ready to counter the opposition by holding bye-elections in case Opposition resigns from the National Assembly as being threatened by PDM Alliance. IK has asked his party men to be prepared for the instant eventuality to b e ready to contest all the seats that would become vacant due to Opposition’s en masse resignations to force the Establishment to hold general elections. While PM Khan continues to blow hot, it is surprising to note his offer for talks with the Opposition.
The situation has been further compounded by other serious developments rocking the PTI boat. Senate’s Vice Chairman Salim Mandviwalla known to be a serious and above board politician has taken on PTI government’s main attack weapon i.e. NAB in a frontal embarrassing onslaught ripping NAB apart at its seams. This offensive by Senate Vice Chairman Salim Mandviwalla has become more lethal since he has launched a campaign not only to expose NAB’s wheeling-dealings within the country but also internationally seeking its blacklisting as a vendetta wielding instrument of PTI government. Being an extremely organised man that he is, Salim’s anti-NAB campaign in the rest of the world is invoking international human rights institutions and forums to censure NAB.
It may be mentioned that NAB is being targeted by all and sundry as a wicked institution run by personnel of questionable bearing. One may recall that some time ago a lady had accused NAB Chairman, a former judge of the Supreme Court, of trying to take sexual advantage of her in return to expedite and negate NAB investigation against her husband. That being that, it has to be seen as to what sort of response Maulana Fazlulur Rehman as PDM chief gets from its MNAs in tendering their resignations to him by December
Democratic Movement (PDM) Maulana Fazlur Rehman. PDM legislators have been asked by MFR to deposit their resignations with him by December 31. So far it seems to be a concerted effort to mobilise effective opposition to PTI to corner it into conceding PDM demand for fresh election.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman served his ultimatum on hile addressing a press conference, flanked by leaders, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. “All opposition lawmakers, from the national and provincial assemblies throughout the country, should send in their resignations to their respective party leaderships by December 31,” declared JUI-F leader. Fazlur Rehman maintains that the PDM is not at all apprehensive of the PTI government and its threats to resort to a crackdown.
According to political pundits PTI government seems to be in panic following MFR’s ultimatum. PTI does not know to what extent the Khaki Establishment is behind the current developments. They say “All that is needed now is one push.” In reply to a question in a press conference MFR stressed that there would be no turning back from the resignations. “Once we give them [resignations], we will not lick them like they did,” he said, referring to various lawmakers of the PTI who had resigned during the 2014 dharna to take them back only to return to the Parliament a few months later.
On the other hand, in a different news conference PML-N Punjab president Rana Sanaullah declared, “The opposition will resign from the National Assembly (in the first phase) and not let the Imran Khan government hold by-polls. We want new free and fair elections and there will be no compromise on this.” He, however, disclosed that the PPP had certain reservations about resigning from Provincial assemblies and that PPP only supported PDM to only send in resignations from the National Assembly.
According to sources PMLN Quaid Nawaz Sharif has spoken to PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and JUI- F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and reached a consensus regarding resignations from the NA. The other leaders of the alliance have also been taken into confidence,” Sanaullah had said earlier in the day. Fazlur Rehman and Sanaullah in their respective news conferences had said that the Lahore jalsa would be historic and would serve as the last nail in the coffin of the PTI government.
PMLN sources confidentially claim that the December 13 rally will be held at all costs and people from across the country will participate in it, while Nawaz Sharif will deliver his decisive speech on the occasion video link. Earlier in the day, the leadership of the PDM had held a strategy meeting –attended by former premier Nawaz Sharif and ex-president Asif Ali Zardari via video-link, and Maryam Nawaz in person – in the federal capital to decide on its course of action.
In the meanwhile Prime Minister Imran Khan seems to have buckled down from his previous stand and has shifted lately to be prepared for a ‘grand national dialogue’ without discussing concessions to corrupt politicians. “I am ready for a national dialogue on issues…but I can’t allow an NRO to corrupt politicians,” the PM said while responding to questions by senior journalists at the Prime Minister’s House. “If compromises are to be made with corrupt politicians, then all criminals across the country must be released first.”
Like Don Quixote, Imran Khan believes he is waging a crusade for (establishing) corruption free society and rule of law in the country. He assures that he has no personal enmity with anyone. The policy of merit was a prerequisite to bring a true change in the country, he emphasises. According to Khan who claims to have been observing the practices of successive regimes for the past 40 years and it was his strong belief that the leadership must be held accountable to reform the country.
“I always believed in merit-based policy. It is a must for establishing writ of the state. Only in monarchy are rulers not held accountable. In democratic dispensation, no one is above the law. But these politicians want an NRO and for this they have been threatening me. I can’t allow this surrender to take place” he said. PM Khan recalls that former dictator General (r) Pervez Musharraf had spent billions of rupees to probe cases against corrupt leaders. However, when the probe was about to reach a logical conclusion, General Musharraf was compelled by his selfish interests to agree to give NRO.
Politicians want me to do the same, which I will never do,” he asserted. Indeed, IK forgot that he had served as a pillar to the Musharraf regime. Imran Khan accused the opposition of blackmailing him. Explaining , Imran Khan said when the federal government had urged the opposition parties to support legislation on laws related to Financial Action Task Force (FATF) regulations, the opposition put forth 34 demands – all were related to curtailing powers of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Accused the opposition leaders bound by a conspiracy to dismantle NAB and accountability process.
Imran Khan calls it a defining moment for Pakistan when the entire political leadership is united against him because he was not allowing them to go scot-free,” the PM said and added that due to what he claimed ‘honesty and integrity of the government,’ civil and military leadership were on the same page. He refused to share the multiple cases of mega corruption by the generals like Bajwa and his colleagues who had made millions during his tenure as Corps Commander and other posts he held gainfully including that of CPEC.
Responding to a question, Imran Khan said that the government would not be rattled by the resignations of opposition lawmakers. “My confidence is also building now. There is a constitutional way if someone wants to send me packing. We will hold by-elections if the opposition resigns. This tactic won’t work anymore,” he stated. Finally, he resorted to accusing the “foreign hand” behind the opposition’s campaign against the PTI government hinting at neighbouring India. “There may be some ‘external powers’ that may be behind the recent campaign of the opposition to destabilise the PTI government. He claims there is a coalition of nations that want to keep corrupt people stop in Pakistan.
They [politicians] serve their purpose,” he added. This “coalition of anti-Pakistan nations” claimed Khan that they have destroyed many Muslim countries one-by-one for their motives and geo-strategic interests. “Just take examples of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, etc. They also wanted to pit Saudi Arabia against Iran. He alleged that these external forces support destabilization in Pakistan too. He obliquely referred to sinister happenings in Balochistan, Sindh and GB. According to independent observers, Prime Minister Khan is tacitly following the narrative set forth for him by the Khaki Establishment at a price for keeping him in power when the opposition PDA threatens with the resignations of their legislators.
In the given developing scenario, democracy lovers do not want PTI-Opposition confrontation to cause a political implosion in the country. One hears saner voices calling both PTI and PDM parties to initiate a meaningful dialogue before things go out of hand giving initiative to the street power. As things are, the opposition is still part of parliament while the government is busy in trying to cover up its blunders. After the PDM came up with a vague stance on resignation from assemblies, Prime Minister Imran Khan has shown his obduracy to resolve that not by talks but by seeking by elections. Imran Khan has categorically said that if the opposition resigns from parliament, the government will go ahead with by-elections on the vacant seats.
Meanwhile, the PDM leadership has announced that their MNAs will submit their resignations with their respective party heads, which is a symbolic move, lacking any substance and sense. It is clearly put that the opposition alliance is undecided about quitting the parliament. However, it lacks a follow up plan. On the other hand, the prime minister told a delegation of journalists at the Prime Minister’s House that the opposition’s focus was only on their leaders’ cases, while he was not ready to accord any concession on the corruption issue. There are reports that the treasury has approached the opposition for dialogue, which the other side has vehemently turned down. And the deadlock persists.
It may be that it is not for the first time politics of resignation from parliament is being resorted to. It is an accepted norm in democracies the world over to bring down governments. In Pakistan due to the fragile nature of democracy such a drastic step harming the continuity of assemblies would plunge Pakistan back to the 1980s and 1990s era when none of the five assemblies could complete their logical term from 1985 to 1999. Thanks to the Pakistan Peoples Party’s reconciliatory politics, which helped the first-ever democratic government to complete its term in 2013? We must not forget, the PakistanTehreek-i-Insaf with Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek gheraoed the parliament and even put up a botched effort to resign from the National Assembly.
In those days, every democratic force, including those now part of the PDM, condemned the IK and Qadri conspiracy to destabilize a democratically elected government. Similarly, dharna by cleric Khadim Husain Rizvi underwritten with cash by ISI to topple the incumbent regime was criticised by pro-democratic forces. If those attempts were wrong, the PDM’s recent move to quit the assemblies followed by a long march on Islamabad seems to be an act in desperation.
The opposition may not be able to change the government but the agitation will create anarchy in the country that could possibly lead to men on horseback to take over. PDM leadership is sombre as compared to PTI’s buffons who should prefer to fight their battle within parliament and use constitutional means to change the government.
At the moment, the general impression is that there is fighting on all fronts as such negotiations for national dialogue cannot be possible. Saner elements do believe that dialogue is sine qua non in politics. Look at Afghanistan where war continues, but negotiations are also taking place and seems to be on the verge of a settlement to bring the fratricidal war to an end. Indeed, a need for dialogue is there. It can be held outside the parliament and inside between the representatives of all the political parties. As we see in Afghanistan, before and during the talks between the Afghan Taliban and the United States matters have progressed well. There is an example good enough to follow.