Everybody in Islamabad has a story to tell these days. All of them are marked by biases, selective reading of facts and based on party affiliations. Objectivity becomes the first victim and rational analysis deeply difficult is such circumstances.
Prime Minister Imran Khan intends to play till the last ball. He believes he has a trump card up his sleeve, and he will win the trick against the opposition. Most observers wonder what this card is. Imran Khan is not somebody who can keep things to himself for long. There is too much chatter in town.
People believe Khan is relying on the mass support of people, which would come out on March 27 to back him, and before them he would perpetuate the narrative of martyrdom. This would be based on his recent veto of the Russian UNGA Resolution, OIC Summit and a negation of what the EU/Western ambassadors had suggested. It would in turn put pressure on the allies and his party affiliates to support him.
This narrative has a number of fallacies within it. Khan is not essentially an anti-Western leader. He has played a crucial part in stalling the CPEC, which is China’s flagship project of BRI. He had maintained relations with President Trump to an extent that he equated his US visit to “a second world cup victory”. Further, the amount of people Khan might bring out on the streets would not impress the allies and the naysayers. So he would like to go down as a martyr — and that raises serious issues to which we will come later.
The military operates under a chain of command in which the incumbent enjoys full loyalty of his juniors and any such move would be considered a threat to the institution.
The judiciary is expected to deliver a judgment on the Presidential Reference filled by the government on interpretation of Article 63(A). Keeping the legal arguments aside, even if it goes Khan’s way, it would not deter the allies and independents within the parliament to vote against him and oust him through the no-confidence motion.
There is also talk about a four-point settlement between the government and the opposition, but that would require the PM to sit with the opposition leaders, which he has clearly rejected.
More importantly, the military has shown neutrality in the crisis. Khan on various occasions has said and done things, which if done by previous prime ministers would have evoked a response. The tension between him and the military is palpable, but the silence from one side shows that they are acting maturely for now.
Would the prime minister use his powers to up the ante so much that they are left with no option but to interfere? Well, if Imran Khan has shown us one thing during his years in the government, it is his unpredictability.
It is important to tell the PM that, while he has constitutional powers, exercising them now might lead to further chaos. The military operates under a chain of command in which the incumbent enjoys full loyalty of his juniors and any such move would be considered a threat to the institution. This cannot be Imran Khan’s Jehangir Karamat moment, and anybody telling him otherwise is unaware of the political situation and his rising unpopularity in heart of Punjab.
This “nuclear option”, as it is being called, would not only put Imran Khan, but the fragile democracy of this country under extreme pressure and create a crisis.
The PM must accept that he has lost the confidence of the House. Perhaps, it’s too much to ask a man like him to resign but he must be convinced that it is better to remain in shape to fight another day than be thrown out of the game.
The author is a lawyer and teaches at University of London Affiliate Centres based in Islamabad. Twiiter: @HRazaPK