Saturday, December 4, 2021

Political Rift In Pakistan Deepening

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The rift in the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI) has now come out into the open. The two factions, one led by the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the other by Jahangir Tareen, are at each other’s throat which has led to a vicious twitter war for both factions.  Both belong to the Southern part of the country’s largest and the most important province, Punjab and both have an eye on the administration there. Mr. Qureshi wanted to the Chief Minister of Punjab but his hopes were dashed when he lost the elections to Salman Naeem who too, is a political heavy weight of the PTI but contested as an independent after the party had fielded Mr. Qureshi in his place. Mr. Tareen fell out of the electoral race after the Pakistan Supreme Court had disqualified him for electoral malpractices.

The latest trigger has been the restoration of Jahangir Tareen in the government setup which obviously could not happen without the approval of the Prime Minister and the Chairman of PTI Imran Khan.  Mr. Tareen not only attended a recent Cabinet meeting but briefed the ministers on the performance of the agricultural sector without being a part of the government. This obviously irked Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his supporters leading to a fresh spat.

After having played an important role in making many independent members to join the PTI, thus enabling the party to form a government in Punjab; Mr. Tareen is considered to be a trusted man of Imran Khan which explains why he has been called back to take care of the Punjab. Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has accused Imran Khan of running the politics through money power.

The rift between the two groups has its seeds in a 2016 incident when Mr. Qureshi and his opponents came to calling each other names at the dinner table at Mr. Tareen’s residence. Mr. Imran Khan had to leave the room when things had gone out of control. Since then, the gulf has been widening and has now become a free for all.

The ‘Nazriati’ group of PTI has made it clear that it will not allow PTI to become PTI (Q) by what it calls bringing in political orphans at the helm of affairs of the party.

This political confrontation has affected governance as both parliament and the state legislatures have been paralyzed. Prime Minster Imran Khan seems to be in no mood to talk to the opposition as a result of which vacancies in Pakistan’s Election Commission could not be filled so far since taking the opposition on board for this is a constitutional requirement.

Of late, Mr. Qureshi has let it known publicly that he is not a party to many of the decisions taken by Imran Khan. The latest is the Pakistan Prime Minister’s decision to rename Benazir Income Support Programme. Mr. Qureshi had stepped aside on this issue.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s allegation that a group has emerged in the party which wants to handle every issue with money power is a serious allegation, which can have far reaching repercussions. On one hand, Imran Khan is claiming to be engaged with building a new (naya) Pakistan in which terrorism will have no place on its soil. On the other, his own party is heading towards a vertical division which can thwart his efforts if he is making any.

India as Pakistan’s neighbour and a well-wisher is naturally concerned over the developments taking place there, as these have a bearing on many issues. India wants a stable and peaceful Pakistan which can work to both countries’ advantage. If Imran Khan is sincere in building a new Pakistan and demolishing terrorism, Mr. Khan  must take control of the political situation in the country. Islamabad needs to set its own house in order before blaming others for strained relations.

Script: Ashok Handoo , Political Commentator

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