Most political forces in the country have given up all hopes of seeing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in a lead role after his failure to adopt a credible stance in national politics in the last six months that could in anyway challenge the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government and prove his leadership credentials.
Interestingly, the promises made by Khan before the general elections, especially after the historic undoing of the Pakistan People’s Party, is no longer there. As such the political forces other than the PPP and PML-N that were once ready to accept his leadership are no longer inclined to forge any alliance under his leadership.
It is learnt that leaders from the PTI especially from Punjab often float the idea of forging an alliance to counter and dislodge the ruling PML-N in the coming days, but they have not received a favourable response from any quarter so far.
Efforts were once afoot to cobble together an alliance featuring the PTI, Pakistan Awami Tehreek of Dr Tahirul Qadri and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid besides other religious and political groups.
“But the question is who will lead them? The leadership of Imran Khan is not acceptable in any such political venture,” a senior leader privy to the efforts commented.
Political leaders privately say that in the last six months, Khan has failed to adopt any credible stance or rallying call around which other forces could conveniently gather.
“It is one of the reasons why no other political force except Jamaat-e-Islami is ready to join the PTI in its anti-drone protests in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other provinces. “There are more pressing issues that need the attention of the country’s leadership. Look at the price hike and rising unemployment in the country,” said PML-Q President Shujaat Hussain.
PTI surprised political observers when it went ahead with its decision to stop the NATO supply route in Peshawar and invited all political parties to join its protest campaign.
Both the government and the opposition benches shared a common thought that the attack on Hakeemullah Mehsud had scuttled the peace process with the Taliban, but the PTI was advised not to ‘fly solo’ in blocking the NATO supply route.
The party still went ahead and its chief, Imran Khan, vowed to continue the protest until the drone strikes came to a halt.
The PTI blockade has yet to create any impact nationally or regionally. The US and NATO did not attach any importance to the disruption of supplies initially. However, recently, the US declared that the protests did not pose any long-term threat to its plan of leaving Afghanistan using routes through KP.
Khan might have scored some brownie points by persistently taking up the issue, but other political parties are not ready to lend the PTI chief a hand in his crusade against the drone strikes inside Pakistani territory.
They believe that Khan is dragging the issue needlessly when hardly any positive outcome can be expected.
“It is something in which you cannot do much. You have disrupted NATO supplies, made your presence felt. Now what next can you do? You have lodged an FIR against the CIA over the Hangu drone attack. What’s next? Can you go after the CIA now?” a senior leader opined.
Interestingly, in the entire episode, the federal government has remained quite aloof. It never tried to contact the PTI leadership or the provincial government to knock sense in them or assure them that it could handle the situation on its own. It seems the federal government is not ready to take the ownership of the issue.
“For the sake of politics or otherwise, it would have been much appropriate if Imran Khan had put pressure on the federal government, forcing it to deal with the issue more convincingly and thereby exposing it,” PML-Q Senator Kamil Ali Agha said.
The PPP leadership has also stayed away from the debate of whether the PTI is on the right track.
“The standoff between the PTI and PML-N will benefit us. Let them burn their energies and wings on petty issues,” remarked a senior PPP leader, requesting not to be named.
The PML-N position on Imran Khan’s initiative is clear but Amir Muqam, a senior leader of the party in KP, added a different dimension to it.
“Imran Khan’s drone drama is an attempt to improve his party’s stocks in KP. The provincial government has failed to deliver as per expectations of the people. Hence, it is an attempt to bolster the party’s sinking fortunes in the frontier,” Muqam said.