THERE is a growing perception that the PTI government is experiencing a bout of instability. In recent weeks, there has been a flurry of quiet activity that suggests unrest within its ranks and anxiety that governance and politics have entered choppy waters. Latest developments suggest that the coalition allies are unhappy with the performance and attitude of the government and are now not shy of saying as much in public.
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MQM leaders have gone on media to say that they have reservations about the electronic voting machines while the PML-Q leadership has also become vocal in its criticism of the government. This goes to suggest that they are feeling emboldened enough to verbalise their grievances at a time when there is talk of the government facing new threats from the opposition both in parliament and in the streets.
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For its part, the opposition has also started saying publicly that it may attempt a move against the Senate chairman and the Speaker of the National Assembly. This signifies that the opposition is feeling emboldened enough to consider testing its parliamentary strength on the basis of an assessment that the government may not get the support of the establishment like it did on previous occasions when the opposition tried to bring down the Senate chairman.
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Many of these assessments may get tested during a joint session of parliament likely to be held on Wednesday during which contentious issues such as the electoral reforms bill could be put to a vote. Cabinet ministers have started claiming that the reservations of their allies on the EVMs have been addressed, which means that it may not wait to build a consensus on the matter with the protesting opposition. If the government is successful in bulldozing this legislation through the joint session, it would be evidence enough that the allies have decided to throw in their lot with the government despite their reservations. If the treasury numbers hold, it would also be a signal that the government is in fact not as vulnerable as many in the opposition are making it out to be. This may trigger another controversy as the opposition is not likely to accept the EVMs without putting up a legal fight.
In terms of the perception of weakness, then, the PTI government may get a breather. But this could well prove temporary as the opposition has clearly sensed that the time is ripe to build pressure through another campaign from the platform of the PDM. The opposition appears rejuvenated in its efforts and if the establishment is indeed seen as stepping back from its all-out support for the rulers, then the opposition figures can pile pressure on the government from all sides. It is therefore safe to say that the coming few months are likely to witness an intensification of political activity.
Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2021