THE PTI-led ruling coalition is under tremendous strain. Hastily patched together in the aftermath of the 2018 elections, the combination of the PTI and the MQM, PML-Q, GDA and BNP-M enabled Imran Khan to form a government and occupy the office of prime minister. The dynamics of this coalition suffered from inbuilt instability because without keeping its allies on board, the PTI could not survive at the centre. All knew this would entail a price in terms of cabinet positions, local patronage and power as well as a share in the official gravy train. This train chugged along merrily until a few weeks ago when it hit many roadblocks. After almost all the coalition partners publicly expressed reservations about unfulfilled commitments, the PTI formed committees to smoothen ruffled feathers and keep them within the coalition. So far nothing concrete has come out of these meetings that followed.
In fact, whatever give and take is happening behind closed doors has not produced anything conclusive. Of the manifold problems that the PTI continues to face, the matter involving the PML-Q seems to be the most serious. The Chaudhries and their colleagues say that the PTI had made very specific commitments to them which had led to the PML-Q joining the coalition. To date, despite repeated meetings, the promises remain unfulfilled as per the PML-Q. A reshuffling of the negotiating committee, in which Jehangir Tareen was dropped, also raised many eyebrows. The PTI is in a tough spot. Already bruised and battered by its own poor governance and close to losing the war of perceptions, the ruling party now has to compromise again with its allies in order to save the coalition. This means its already cramped political space will shrink even further. The divisions are exacerbated by growing incidents of fighting within the party. The prime minister’s economic team, led by his adviser on finance Dr Hafeez Sheikh, is under tremendous strain due to skyrocketing inflation and plunging key indicators. A blame game is reported to have already started with party members finding refuge in their respective camps. These are dangerous signs for a leader who is increasingly finding himself on the defensive. Political mismanagement exemplified by growing fault lines within the coalition, and the party itself, is fracturing the political will that is so essential to combating major problems. The prime minister should focus on cementing these ruptures in order to achieve the level of teamwork necessary for a result-oriented performance.
Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2020