Politicians’ arrest

Published June 12, 2019

THE prediction that Eid would be followed by eventful days has shown early promise of being accurate. PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari was picked up on Monday in a fake bank accounts case.

And one day later, the authorities provided proof of how they deal with opposition politicians with an equal hand when the National Accountability Bureau arrested the PML-N’s Hamza Shahbaz.

The build-up to the arrests had been apparent for some time.

The big catch was thought to be only days away when, recently, a perceptible acceleration in the pace at which the accountability body was working became evident.

Though the government has denied any role in the latest events, there was increasing mention in the media about Prime Minister Imran Khan getting impatient and wanting some of these high-profile cases to be expedited.

It was pointed out that the government needed to show the public that things were proceeding apace during its reign.

And what better way of achieving the most visible manifestation of this than detaining the government’s strongest rivals as the ruling party itself went about the task of announcing a challenging annual budget?

This is a very critical phase of the confrontation between the PTI government and the opposition parties that now have all the more reason to be united against a drive to crush them.

There remains the crucial question of whether the environment is conducive to protest and agitation by the PPP and PML-N. But nothing can be ruled out.

At a time of sharp media focus, the PTI would be committing a grave mistake if it were to quickly and thoughtlessly dismiss the initially slow pick-up of the opposition’s protest engine as an unfixable problem in their strategy.

These two opposition parties have many reasons to be angry and animated. They have created chaos in the past and are connected to other opposition groups with their own axe to grind against those in power.

In previous years, complacent governments, even those banking on their most powerful backers, have found themselves overtaken by unexpected events when the opposition’s campaign is set in motion.

There is little doubt that the fight is going to gradually get messier and uglier.

It won’t be easy for a PTI that has sustained itself by accessing the same pool of human resource which was available to other ruling parties in the past, to say that its actions do not constitute a witch-hunt.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2019

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