Endgame?

Published April 9, 2022

ONCE again, the prime minister seems to have accepted the inevitability of his forced removal from office. Barring another ill-advised ‘trump card’ to disrupt or delay the vote of no-confidence, Mr Imran Khan is unlikely to remain chief executive today if proceedings in the National Assembly go according to the Supreme Court’s directions. He seems to know it.

In a comparatively more subdued address to the nation late Friday, he attempted to reclaim some lost pride by glossing over his party’s condemnable actions this past week, describing them as well-meaning attempts to protect national sovereignty. But though Mr Khan said he was disappointed in the Supreme Court’s stern ruling on his party’s shambolic attempt at dictating a way out of the no-trust crisis, it was encouraging that he, publicly at least, chose to accept the verdict rather than take a more confrontational approach. He would be wise to stick to that line.

His disappointment with the court for not considering the Washington cable and the ‘foreign conspiracy’ to oust him while arriving at its judgement was apparent, but he remained unable to substantiate these allegations with anything new, even if he was much more direct while talking about the cable in question.

Read: ‘Cablegate’ lands foreign service in knotty predicament

It is understood that the government now plans to either show or read out the cable in parliament and call for a debate on it. It is likely that the National Assembly speaker will comply. However, it is hoped that the government will rely on the contents of the cable alone in its attempt to sway the House and that voting on the no-confidence motion itself will not be delayed any further.

It also bears noting that the PTI would be well within its rights to seek a review from the Supreme Court against the April 7 verdict and to challenge the court’s decision to explicitly direct the NA speaker to hold a session under its terms and conditions. Again, however, this should not come to bear on the vote, which has already been much delayed.

Whether today or tomorrow, Mr Khan is likely to return to the people to start a campaign against what he has described in his late Friday address as an ‘imported’ government. This much is fair play. He is entitled to call for peaceful protests, as he has done. His call for countrywide demonstrations after Isha prayers on Sunday indicates that he has a plan for the next chapter of his political journey.

Perhaps it is due to the unusual events of this past week, but the prime minister’s failure to say anything about what exactly he expects to happen in the National Assembly still gives one pause. Could it be that the PTI is still holding some cards close to its chest? One only hopes that the party will desist from any further legal misadventures.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2022

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