The top leadership of the PML-N failed to convince Asif Ali Zardari to boycott the 2018 general elections. Zardari was of the view they ought not leave the political field open and uncontested. He cited the PPP’s boycott of elections in 1985 that they still regretted.
The matter was brought to the leadership of the PDM, but tables couldn’t be turned, and the consensus regarding contesting the elections prevailed.
After that, the PML-N had a huddle to discuss whether to boycott the elections or not in their individual capacity. They knew for sure that they wouldn’t be allowed to win. They had cogent evidence that neither the establishment nor the courts were ready to listen to them. They feared all out doom. Despite all the odds against them, the ‘doves’ dominated the ‘hawks’ and the party agreed to contest the elections.
That was the decisive step that finally unleashed what was enacted before, during and after the 2018 general elections. Wholesale rigging in the elections, and massive tinkering with the results put the PML-N on second step of the electoral podium.
The PDM raised hue and cry over the rigged elections. They protested. But again, they wasted another opportunity to bring to a halt the onslaught of the Project Imran juggernaut. They eagerly entered the national and provincial assemblies. They even created for themselves false comfort in the shape of a parliamentary commission to inquire into rigging in the elections. The commission has not met even once.
A boycott of the elections from PML-N would likely have failed Project Imran from being operational and achieving its goals. However, political parties have their own axe to grind, and their ambitions and politics revolve around their focus on remaining connected with the center of the state.
Then the juggernaut did what it could. The steamroller flattened whatever came in its way. The economy was ruined. Foreign relations suffered immeasurably. The media corrupted deeply. The literal fabric of the society torn asunder.
Hatred, vengefulness and persecution dominated. Finally, the three and a half-year rule of the Project Imran not only miserably collapsed under its own lumbering weight, it also exposed the establishment and the higher courts of Pakistan to an unimaginable ignominy also.
It may safely be conjectured that its own internal discord forced the establishment to abandon Project Imran halfway and admit tactical defeat. Otherwise there is every reason to believe that it would have continued for over a decade.
The PDM was made aware of it. As the PM were in complete desperation, this news offered them some reprieve. They were ready to go as if they had been waiting in the wings all along, and initiated a no-confidence-move against the Imran Khan government in the National Assembly that succeeded after a tense interlude.
Thus, Project Imran stands discarded, but not orphaned and abandoned. There are yet many fathers who want it to continue and succeed. It seems they are prepared to pay any price, up to and including the survival of the state, but they will not allow the PML-N to make a comeback.
Almost a year has passed now, but the PDM coalition government is yet on tenterhooks regarding its own fate. Nothing good is coming out of it, especially for its own self. The economy is irretrievably tanking. That’s the end result of PML-N’s and PPPP’s politics of complicity with the establishment.
By choosing not to boycott, and instead participating in the 2018 general elections, they deliberately did not make use of the opportunity to deliver a shock to the establishment. Had the PMLN and the PPPP boycotted the 2018 elections, the system would not have been able to afford that massive a shock and survive intact.
Now, as the brunt of Project Imran, the failing state economy, and disintegrating state institutions has to be borne by the PML-N, as it has the largest share in the federal government, there is an opportunity for the PDM, or the PML-N and the PPPP to administer much needed shock therapy to the system. Maybe the PML-N goes it alone.
The shock therapy is as follows. Leave the federal and provincial governments: the Prime and Chief Ministers, and members of all the cabinets, advisors ought to resign. They ought to keep away from politics for a certain period. They should allow the establishment and the courts to do what they want to do. Give them free reign. Let this be recorded as a protest. Only this will serve as adequate shock therapy to the system.
Sitting on the fence doesn’t mean you have accepted fate. Conduct an aggressive campaign to the effect that the system needs a reset, and you want that reset. Expose every department, every institution, and every individual who has helped rig the system.
To my mind, this looks like the last opportunity for the system to be reset from the inside. In case, the PDM, the PML-N and the PPPP, do not realize the urgency and the gravity and do not unite and do not decisively act to administer shock therapy to the system, tomorrow may be too late.
A reset means going back to the basics – strict rule of the Constitution and the law. The security of fundamental rights to each and every citizen. An open economy so that people are allowed to improve their lives. Reduce the size of the government and curtail its spending. Is that asking for too much?