Indeed, political foray has been rather unsettling and has gained momentum during the past few weeks, with a vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan submitted to the speaker’s office on March 8. Optimistic yet charged, the opposition believes the ouster of Imran Khan is inevitable, but the government and its allies think otherwise.
The opposition claims to have gained the required numbers to de-seat the PM. Leading opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) approached the in-government parties – Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), repeatedly for support in ousting Khan. Both PML-Q and MQM-P welcomed the opposition but termed meetings as usual political meet-ups.
Although MQM, at one point, expressed sheer displeasure with the government and avowed to look for other options but it has not categorically stated anything concerning the no-trust motion.
PM Khan visited the MQM headquarters and sought their support for staying in the alliance. Same goes for PML-Q, which, despite having welcomed old political rival Shehbaz Sharif and former ally Asif Zardari at home, hesitated to put its weight behind the opposition. Speaker Punjab Assembly, Pervez Elahi, went to lengths, praising the PM’s recent relief package and said, “PM is not worried”. The same day Elahi’s son and Federal Minister Moonis Elahi called on the PM in Islamabad and reiterated the party’s assurance of staying in the alliance.
The brewing political storm may seem odd given the multiple challenges surrounding the state but after all it’s the democratic and constitutional right of the opposition to de-seat PM via the vote of no-confidence. Also, the change of face doesn’t essentially mean collapse of the system, the parliament can still work, and the democratic system can avoid a sudden fall. It, however, rests with the opposition parties on what they have decided in case the no-confidence motion succeeds.
Reportedly, the deadlock between Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and PPP over the issue of early elections also stands resolved and leading parties have agreed on snap polls after an interim setups’ short stint into power that would formalise electoral reforms.
The imminent political storm hasn’t occurred overnight rather it was in the offing since long. PTI, partly has itself to blame for taking matters to a nearly point of no return. Imran Khan repeatedly turned down shaking hands with the opposition leaders over matters of national integration and security. PTI didn’t cooperate with the opposition on electoral reforms, NAB reforms and preferred solo flights mostly. The party has nearly turned the parliament a mere rubber stamp and has bulldozed parliamentary norms more than once. Since assuming office in 2018, PTI government promulgated 70 ordinances, which means that more than half of the law-making in the country has been done after bypassing the parliament.
The government overpowered the opposition in getting some highly important bills passed from the parliament, such as the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) amendment Bill to meet the IMF package conditions, Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) bill, OGRA bill among others. In November 2021, the government went on to pass a record 33 bills in a one day during the joint sitting of the parliament. It remains a mystery why the government was able to pass crucial bills in haste, and despite the opposition having the most numbers. The PTI rarely cooperated with the opposition during the process of law-making.
The government’s unremitting mishandling of economic affairs also provides ammunition to the opposition. Volatile economic forecast with persistent and apparently unmanageable inflation and widening trade deficit is putting the country on a verge of economic downfall. Trade deficit has widened by 82.2 percent during the first eight months (July-February) of the current fiscal year 2021-22, rupee’s depreciation against dollar continues to see fluctuation. The rising oil prices in international markets would further imbalance Pakistan’s imports and exports.
Since the no-confidence motion has become talk of the town, other prevalent issues, such as the long-awaited local government elections have also gone to the back burner. And thus, the notion of grass-root level democracy remains in limbo.
Despite the PTI’s frequent preference of bypassing parliament and poor handling of economics, an average Pakistani would want to see a stable government which can serve against the fixed and constitutionally-mandated term of five years.
Unfortunately, Pakistanis have never had a chance to see an elected PM serve to his fullest. This time, too, the way the opposition has riled up around PM Khan, it seems that another PM would probably lose his seat before completing the term. Political pundits believe, PM Khan’s move of slashing petrol and electricity prices is a populist move taken to bridle the approaching storm.
On the other hand, charged opposition is putting its credibility on stakes, and if it fails, as it failed in the near past, it will severely impact the political reputation just ahead of upcoming general elections.
The writer has completed PhD in South Asian Studies from University of the Punjab. She tweets @AmeenaTanvir