PESHAWAR: Qaumi Watan Party is hurt, while Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf is uncompromising.
The abrupt end to their apparently ill-conceived political bonhomie has bolstered Jamaat-i-Islami.
And why should not JI feel emboldened? It has already been patted on the back by the man in full control of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s politics.
PTI chief Imran Khan in his brief communiqué on Wednesday last through which he announced his decision of pulling out of alliance with QWP, appreciated the JI-backed provincial ministers’ ‘exemplary’ commitment to ‘anti-corruption’ endeavour of the PTI-led provincial government.
After QWP’s departure from the coalition government in a manner with no precedent in Pakistan’s political history, JI has got doubled up its significance for the coalition government, becoming all important for PTI to continue its reign of power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
JI’s numerical strength in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly may not be very impressive for many, but its eight-member parliamentary group in the 124-strong legislature forms an important lifeline for PTI’s rule in the province.
The last time JI enjoyed this formidable political stature was in Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s rule in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the first half of the last decade.
Though its parliamentary group in those days had a greater numerical strength, the confidence with which it exercised its right to rule in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is still fresh in the people’s minds. Some social corrections it tried to implement in those days saw mannequins vanish from Peshawar’s markets and billboards with pictures of female models came under attacks.
No doubt, there are a good number of reasons for which JI ministers deserve appreciation and rightly patted by Mr Khan. Honesty is one strong point of JI men sitting in the existing provincial cabinet. The quality of their input in the provincial policymaking is a matter that has not left impressed many among the provincial bureaucracy. Some of its ministers, in the MMA government, proved quite agreeable to policies held dear by the provincial bureaucracy. After getting its old glory enlivened by dint of QWP’s departure from the ruling coalition, JI forms a good choice for PTI to remain in power and call the shots.
However, the numbers’ game is no more an easy proposition for PTI after it ended its alliance with QWP. In the 124-strong house, PTI needs 63 members to run the show. At present, the ruling alliance’s strength comes to 67 MPAs.
Apart from eight JI members in the provincial assembly, PTI enjoys the support of two independent MPAs and five MPAs of Awami Jamhoori Ittehad Pakistan, a Swabi-based party run and dominated by a wealthy family.
The comfort with which it parted ways with QWP might not be there in future if PTI finds itself in a situation where it has to make a difficult choice between maintaining its public image and keeping its government intact by ignoring flaws in any of its remaining coalition partners or its own MPAs.
The PTI-JI combination does not have the magic number of 63 MPAs to go for a solo flight. They would need, at least, three more MPAs to run the government if, by any chance or due to any reason, AJIP has to leave the coalition.
PTI has already got its numerical strength shrunk to 52 MPAs from 54 in the last one month. Its MPA from Haripur Yousuf Ayub Khan, a great-grandson of former military dictator Ayub Khan, was disqualified by the Supreme Court on November 13 last.
Mr Ayub, who was the minister for communication and woks in the incumbent provincial cabinet, lost his appeal against the disqualification by an election tribunal that found guilty of not fulfilling the conditions of Article 62 and Article 63 of the Constitution, binding for every candidate contesting elections for a provincial or a provincial assembly seat. After his disqualification, PTI is facing a serious challenge from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the upcoming Haripur by-elections. PML-N has a strong political backing in the Haripur constituency.
Earlier in October this year, PTI suffered a loss of its MPA from Dera Ismail Khan after Israrullah Gandapur was killed in a targeted suicide bomb attack. Mr Gandapur had joined PTI after winning the May 11 election as an independent candidate.
The upcoming by-election on PK-67, Dera Ismail Khan, may return another member of the politically strong Gandapur family to the provincial assembly. How would it turn to be for PTI? It appears to be a question that is difficult to answer because the future MPA from PK-67 may or may not join PTI.
The two pro-government independent MPAs, including Jamshed Khan Mohmand from Mardan and Shah Faisal Khan from Hangu, have kept their political options open by not joining PTI or any other political party with presence in the provincial assembly. While its decision to remove QWP from the coalition government has made the numbers game a bit difficult proposition for PTI, its move has emboldened the opposition alliance.
It might not form a potential threat to PTI-led government till PML-N does not decide to appease the desire of political parties like Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, which want to dislodge the sitting government and set up a broad party-based government in the province.
Nonetheless, PTI’s move of ending its alliance with QWP by subjecting it to public humiliation by dismissing two of its ministers from the provincial cabinet on corruption charges has left the Pakhtun nationalist party with deep wounds.
With unfriendly motivation to nail down PTI to restore its public image, QWP can create some real problems for the party in power in the days to come.