Friday, June 18, 2021

Pakistan: Between PDM’s Progress And Imran’s Rants

As the eleven-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) gathers momentum and sets its eyes on a mega rally in Islamabad in January next year, the Imran Khan government looks rather fidgety and restless. It shows up in its reactions to the rallies being held since October. As the opposition is planning to resign enmasse from the national and provincial assemblies, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) government has become more nervous.

The latest instance of its nervousness is the wild allegation by a senior minister that PDM has been receiving foreign funds to organise its rallies. Other ministers in television talk-shows also betray a sense of edginess, when they accuse the opposition leaders with their all-too-familiar worn-out allegations of being a corrupt and self-serving lot seeking, amnesty through such show of strength.

Imran Khan could not better his flock in a recent interview, where he reiterated that he would not offer amnesty to the corrupt opposition leaders and warned that even if he would not stop the rallies, keeping the recent spike in Covid-19 cases in mind, the government would lodge FIRs against people who enable the upcoming ‘Jalsa’(meeting) at Lahore on 13 December.

Only days earlier, on the eve of PDM’s 5th rally at Multan, the Imran Khan government had unsuccessfully done everything possible to stop the opposition from holding the meeting on the ground that such large congregations would lead to spread of Covid-19.

Since its inception on 20 September, the PDM has held five rallies so far, at Gujranwala (16 October) Karachi (18 October), Quetta (25 October), Peshawar (22 November) and Multan (30 November). These rallies have been well-attended, contrary to Islamabad’s expectations and despite its efforts to create roadblocks on the way.

The PDM’s twelve-point demand include establishing constitutional supremacy, ensuring free and fair elections, independent functioning of the Parliament, independent judiciary, stopping the Pakistan Army’s role in politics, safeguarding rights of the provinces (18th Amendment) and fighting terrorism and extremism.

The PDM leadership has called Imran Khan a ‘selected’ Prime Minister, meaning he was picked up by the army to serve their agenda and have sought his resignation. They allege that the electoral process was manipulated by the army to bring Imran to power. While the voice of most of the PDM leaders alleging army’s interference has been rather muted, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in his virtual addresses, has registered his angst against the establishment quite openly and castigated a “few selfish generals” and taken the names of the Chiefs of Pakistan army and the ISI.

Pakistan is facing an impending economic crisis, growing disaffection among minority ethnic groups especially in Balochistan, the tribal areas and Sindh. Unfavourable geo-strategic developments in Islamabad’s immediate Western and Southern Asian neighbourhoods and overall lack of political consensus has had a disabling effect on the country, which is yet to come out of the multiple crises it is beset with.

Many discerning observers in Pakistan have suggested that the government must hold a Grand National Dialogue and establish a truth-and-reconciliation commission to avert the crisis. However, Imran’s offer in this regard has been half-hearted and insincere. He continues his tirade against opposition leaders and paints them all with the same brush, describing them as mafia and looters of national wealth.  While many of his fellow cabinet members, who have defected from the opposition, are “true politicians”, as they say; Imran Khan is not.

Amid all this, the fear of India is being churned out both to deflate the opposition’s threat of resignation and to create a sense of unity among the people. The Pak media is abuzz with rumours of possible false-flag operations by India, which might raise the salience of the army in people’s eyes. Only a spirit of reconciliation, both within and outside, can save Pakistan’s future.

 

Script: Dr. Ashok Behuria, Senior Fellow & Coordinator South Asia Centre,Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

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