THE PDM leadership has stated that in its next meeting slated for later in the month, it intends to deliberate on bringing a vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan. Speaking to the media, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif said they had agreed to seriously consider this move and make a decision soon.
This is a departure from PDM’s earlier position which was wedded to resigning from the assemblies in a bid to bring the PTI government down. However, it appears the PDM has also now come around to the PPP’s view that an in-house change is the best option against the government. This option is premised on various factors, one of which is the opposition’s assessment that the establishment has adopted a more hands-off approach towards the government.
Maulana Fazl has already said this when he told journalists recently that the results of the KP local bodies elections — in which JUI-F did surprisingly well — were evidence that when the establishment becomes neutral, the PTI suffers a setback at the polls. The latest PDM statement is also based on the government’s weakening position and growing unease within its ranks and also among the allies about the economic and governance ailments that seem to be intensifying with each passing day. The opposition leaders have been heard claiming that many treasury members are in secret contact with them.
It is still premature to say whether such a move will indeed materialise, and whether it would succeed. It is fairly obvious that the opposition is galvanising its efforts against the government both within parliament and on the streets. The PPP has announced a long march on Islamabad at the end of February while the PDM has scheduled its event on March 23. There is increasing collaboration between Mr Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto and efforts may be underway to coordinate the announced marches as one event.
All these activities point towards a well-thought-out campaign against the government at a time when it is seen as weakening progressively due to multiple political and legal blows. The government is reacting to these developments by cranking up the pressure on the opposition.
The latest move by the government to initiate legal action against Mr Sharif for not fulfilling his commitment to the court of ensuring Nawaz Sharif’s return may not lead to any immediate action but it signifies that the government wants to take the battle to the opposition to divert pressure on it from other sources. This could be a risky strategy because it does not address the root cause of the problems afflicting the government. With the next few weeks crucial in determining how the government will fare, it might be useful for the prime minister to seek advice from experienced politicians in his party instead of resorting to knee-jerk reactions.
Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2022