Imran Khan Should Not Be Smug About Opposition

Activists of the newly-formed Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an opposition alliance of 11 parties, gather during the first public rally in the eastern city of Gujranwala on October 16, 2020. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP)

Pakistan’s history shows that the people of the country have always craved democracy. At regular intervals, movements championing democracy have arisen, and we witness a similar movement – The Pakistan Democratic movement- today. The establishment’s response has always been to crush dissent and to discredit any such movement. Further, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s hypothesis that the PDM will simply “run out of steam” and that PDM will “fail” because the leaders of the parties are tainted with corruption allegations, may be premature.


As noted by former editor of Dawn, Abbas Nasir, rather this belief of PM Khan’s is “a sign of the prime minister’s supreme confidence in his ability to stay in the saddle” that “he openly suggested he favoured an authoritarian system and blamed democratic dispensations for the country’s lack of economic progress.”


According to Nasir, “even as the prime minister says the game is over for the PDM, the actual state of play will emerge over the next two to three months. The first marker or pointer will be the Senate elections and the Punjab by-elections for a couple of National and Punjab Assembly seats now vacant due to the death of the members.”


As Nasir notes, “To my mind, the state of the economy over the coming few months will most likely dictate the direction of politics in the country. A continued downtrend in the economy, unhappy masses and rising defence needs in a hostile regional environment will be the factors to watch.”


Nasir then offers some thoughts on the future political scenario:


“If the PML-N were to win the by-elections in any significant manner, the party will feel encouraged to offer mass resignations even if the PPP refuses to follow suit. The government may have said it will happily hold by-elections if that were to happen, but the truth is it won’t be easy to control and contain mass mobilisation during scores of by-elections. If the party does not do as well as it thinks it will in the by-polls, the PPP proposal to move a no-confidence motion against Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, to start with, may become acceptable to those PDM parties that have not warmed up to it thus far.”


“Given the numerical strength of the prime minister compared to the Punjab chief minister, the latter seems more vulnerable to such a move. But even that vulnerability will hinge hugely on whether the establishment stays neutral. If it does not, the move could well be stillborn.”


“Against the backdrop of Nawaz Sharif’s insistence that any in-house change is pointless unless a new social contract is in place and fresh, fair elections are held, the political moves the PML-N makes will be significant.”


“Whether the PML-N stands its ground or move towards PPP leader Asif Zardari’s view that some sort of reconciliation and change is possible within the existing framework, will depend on how the events unfold post-Senate elections and the Punjab by-elections.”


“Any mass resignations with a sizeable number of supporters gathered in the capital will bring unprecedented pressure on the powers that be because of the paralysis it would cause. Any further adverse impact on the economy may force the hand of the government’s backers.”


Author: Adam Ahmad