Now or never


MAulana Fazal ur Rahman, leader of the Pakistan Democratic Movement, announced the Combined Opposition’s decision to requisition a session of the National Assembly in a few days to table no-confidence motions against Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Asad Qaisar and Vice President Qasim Khan Suri. PDM sources say 86 MPs signed the notices, although the law says only 68 can be enough. Constitutional procedure requires the president to call a session of parliament no earlier than three days after receiving such notices and no later than seven days after concluding the matter. The vote against the Prime Minister is made by public ballot but against the President and his deputy by secret ballot.

This would suggest that the opposition might oppose the president and vice president first, as the secret ballot can help the cruisers of the PTI and allied parties remain invisible until success has encouraged them to s openly oppose the Prime Minister in the second round. But if the government orders its supporters to refrain from attending the assembly, then this approach will not be successful.

It is speculated that a similar opposition movement could materialize in the Punjab Assembly any day.

Meanwhile, popular pressure on the ruling party is mounting through the long PPP march led by President Bilawal Bhutto which entered Punjab and faces roadblocks from Punjab police.

The PDM’s decision to take the plunge follows weeks of hectic politics from opposition heavyweights and government stalwarts. The first was to encircle the government’s twenty or so allies while trying to poach an equal number into the ranks of the government. The latter, naturally enough, desperately resisted such moves. On one side are the two Bhutto-Zardaris, the two Sharifs, the three ex-Prime Ministers Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and the good Maulana. On the other, the arrogant Imran Khan personally jostles the Allies, notably the Gujrat Chaudhries, and bends the knee to COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa in a last ditch attempt to hang on to the coattails of the Miltablishment and survive.

So far, opposing analysts have ruled the roost. How can an incumbent government hand-picked by the Miltablishment be ousted, they argued, especially when they were on the “same page” and the only option for Imran Khan was Nawaz Sharif, the only man the Miltablishment had moved Heaven and Earth to dislodge only a few years ago? But bird watchers have seen unmistakable signs of growing tears on the “same page”, notably in stark differences of opinion between Imran Khan and the Miltablishment over the conduct of national security policies, foreign affairs, economic management and unilateral “responsibility”, which proved to be embarrassing to the Miltablishment by association with him. Thus, they were bold in predicting that the end of Mr. Khan was near, sooner or later, but no later than the tipping point when the PPP and the PDM would come to the “same page” with each other and also with the Miltablishment on what should happen. but after the success of the no-confidence vote – the nature and scope of the next government, the timing of upcoming National Assembly and provincial elections, and the limits of the various power-sharing compromises embedded in the situation.

Imran Khan should deploy all his state and government resources to thwart the opposition, including arrests of opposition figures, political bribes to allies, and harassment of independent media. Nor is it impossible that he will desperately go after the leaders of the Miltablishment and risk bringing down the system with him.

But Khan’s weakness stares the opposition in the face. His handshake with Vladimir Putin, followed by a refusal to criticize Russian aggression against an independent country, was meant to score points with his anti-American supporters despite Miltablishment advice against him. Its economic “relief” program aims to deceive the masses in an election year, even if it can derail the IMF program and push Pakistan into bankruptcy and default. Its refusal to start trading with India, despite the fact that it will bring relief to the entire population by ending speculative shortages and consequent price increases of essential goods, defies all logic unless the objective is not to prepare the ground to attack the Miltablishment and the opposition in the event that Imran Khan is on the outside when the next government tries to “trade with the enemy” or become too friendly with the ‘America.

While we can be reasonably sure that the opposition has done their homework before making such a strategic announcement and that Imran Khan will soon lick the dust, nothing is 100% guaranteed in the murky world of Pakistani politics” spy against spy”. What will the opposition do if the vote of no confidence fails to topple Khan?

We can be reasonably sure that the PMLN will up the ante for the Miltablishment based on the argument that its avowed neutrality was in fact objectively weighted in favor of Imran Khan. If there is another “great betrayal”, we should expect Nawaz Sharif to open his arms again and name names. With public sympathy on its side, the Miltablishment will squirm and bristle, as it did on such an occasion earlier, but with no prospect of relief offered by the prospects of better economic and political management by Imran. Khan.

The “Ides of March” deadline for debt settlement has arrived. The opposition has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Place your bets. It’s now or never.


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