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EditorialStrange game of politics and power

Strange game of politics and power

So the countdown for the present nine-party coalition government has begun. If everything goes as per the books, the current setup should wrap up its tenure by the mid of August, and a caretaker government would be installed till the general elections are held.

Politics is a strange game. It is more like cricket. Nothing is for sure till the last ball. Either you get a wicket or you are hit for a boundary.

Strange are its dynamics. Today’s friends become foes tomorrow. Everything depends on the right move at the right time.

Prior to November 2021, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government was sitting comfortably at the helm. There was not an iota of threat from the opposition. Whatever move the opposition made against the PTI government, it failed miserably. Most of the top leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) were behind bars on corruption charges.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif went into self exile after spending some time in jail in Al Azizia case whereas his daughter Maryam Nawaz remained in jail from July 2018 till September 19, 2018 in the Avenfield case. However it was Shehbaz Sharif and his son, Hamza, who bore the brunt.

The PML-N president was arrested on October 5, 2018 by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme reference and later in Ramzan Sugar Mills case. He was later released on bail in both cases on February 17, 2019. He again faced arrest on September 28, 2020 after the Lahore High Court refused to further extend his pre-arrest bail in the money laundering case. He remained in NAB’s custody for 23 days till the trial court sent him on judicial remand on October 20, 2020. He was finally released from Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore, in April 2021 after remaining in jail for seven months.

Similarly, Hamza Shehbaz, the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly, spent 20 months in jail in money laundering case. He was released in February 2021.

Besides, the Sharif family, Ahsan Iqbal, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Khawaja Saad Rafique, his brother Salman Rafique and Rana Sanaullah from the PML-N faced jail.

From the PPP, the party’s co-chairperson, Asif Ali Zardari, and his sister Faryal Talpur remained incarcerated in the fake accounts case during the PTI tenure.

PPP leader Syed Khursheed Shah spent over two years in jail after he was arrested by NAB in a case related to assets beyond means in September 2019. Agha Siraj Durrani and Sharjeel Memon were the other PPP leaders to have been jailed during Imran Khan’s tenure.

Therefore, the PTI was firmly placed in the seat of power, and its alliance with the military was at its peak. Imran Khan could be heard saying on numerous occasions that both the government and the army were on the same page. And, they were. Eversince the PTI came into power in 2018, the party had forged a strong bond with the army.

To counter the PTI, the then opposition joined forces and decided to converge on the same platform. Therefore, in September 2020, the PPP hosted the ‘all parties conference’ and announced the formation of a grand alliance by the name of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

The parties that were part of the alliance included the PML-N, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), PPP, Awami National Party (ANP), Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party.

However, the PPP did not stay with the alliance for long. A row over the office of the opposition leader in the Senate occurred, following which the PPP was served a show-cause notice. This did not go down well with the PPP and it decided to give up all the offices in the PDM, bidding adieu to its association with the alliance. The ANP had already parted way a few days earlier. This was no less than a blow to the movement against the PTI government.

In fact, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, in a hard hitting press conference, demanded an apology from the PDM leadership for serving a show-cause notice on the PPP and ANP.

However, by the end of 2021, things started to change for the PTI government. The formidable alliance had developed a breach. The issue of Lt Gen Faiz Hameed’s transfer from the ISI had done the damage.

Enter 2022, and the opposition’s confidence increased. It was ready to go all out against Imran Khan and his men. Politicking picked up pace and the ‘give-and-take’ policy was set into motion. The PPP and ANP extended their support to the PDM to give one final push to the PTI force.

Members from every party were contacted in order to muster enough support to send the system packing.

Imran Khan’s weakness started to show and he repeatedly called out to the army, but this time, it decided to stay neutral. By March, a no-confidence motion was filed against Imran on the grounds of poor governance and losing support of legislators.

As a result, a drama ensued, with the motion getting dismissed by the National Assembly deputy speaker, Qasim Suri, and then the prime minister advising the president to dissolve the assemblies. The Supreme Court stepped in, and termed the move unconstitutional.

The motion was passed, and Imran Khan became the first prime minister in the history of Pakistan to be removed through no-confidence.

In a matter of months, Imran Khan who was a force to be reckoned with was gone, and Shehbaz Sharif, who only a year ago was in jail, was now the prime minister.

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