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2022: Long road ahead for PTI

The year 2021 is a year that PTI will like to forget since nothing went its way apart from Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani surviving a no-confidence motion in a shock victory.

The party may have survived despite losing a lot of political footing and presiding over a bad economy, but things are going to get a lot trickier in this year. PTI is combating economic and political challenges. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s main foes are inflation and rising prices. He made multiple speeches prior to the 2018 general elections in which he painted a rosy picture of a new Pakistan under his leadership. But PM Khan’s media team remained on the back foot in 2021 as a result of the government’s performance thus far.

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It is a truism that Pakistan’s political establishment avoids local body elections. PM Imran Khan should be given due credit for holding the local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The surprising setback in the local body election in its stronghold of KP has exposed fissures within the PTI ranks. Inflation and rising prices have diminished the PTI vote bank but PM Khan is of a different view. He believes loss of a majority of constituencies in the recent elections was due to a bad distribution of party tickets.

“I will personally look after the distribution of tickets in the future,” Khan tweeted. The ruling party finds itself in a political vortex with the second phase of local body elections in KP and the most important one in Punjab this year. PM Imran has nominated new provincial party chiefs. Many of the party’s followers, however, have severe concerns about them. While the PTI’s internal strife may not help it improve its performance in KP, the party’s chances in the Punjab elections are considerably worse.

The PTI government has brought the economy to a halt. The working and lower-middle classes have been hit hard by skyrocketing inflation and massive unemployment. The government has already introduced new levy taxes in the name of ‘mini-budget’. This will raise prices even more and alienate the people even more. Despite having gone through multiple financial geniuses, the government’s economic policies still appear ad hoc.

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Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), ANP, and PPP, on the other hand, are preparing to go on the offensive. PDM has called for a long march on March 23, and has urged supporters to gather at D-Chowk in Islamabad. Every year on Pakistan Day, a military parade is held on Constitution Avenue. Reports of Sharif’s homecoming remain a mystery, as none of the PML-N’s stalwarts have spoken out.

Meanwhile, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman is calling the shots after winning majority of tehsil and district seats in KP local body elections. PPP is in high spirits following its surprisingly strong showing in the Lahore by-elections. The PPP is firmly focused on the upcoming national elections and aims to establish a presence in Punjab and intends to undertake a mass contact campaign. Another challenge that awaits PM Khan is the appointment of Gen. Bajwa’s successor when he leaves in November this year. The relationship between the two hasn’t yet reached a breaking point, but the strains are noticeable.

The issue is that Prime Minister Khan has spent the first three years of his tenure sitting on the same container that he rode into Islamabad and the PTI government has no plans to deliver significant relief to Pakistanis in the next year and a half. It will stick to its policy of making bold statements and blaming the opposition parties, primarily the PML-N and the PPP, for the country’s current economic plight.

It will be interesting to see how the government responds to the country’s significant issues in this year. It is high time PM Imran understands and adapts to the situation and tries to look for electors instead of selectors.

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