PTI-PAT agitation calls

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Uncertain times ahead

Just when we were about to make ourselves believe that sanity will now prevail on the political scene as election had drawn close enough and Panama Papers had lost its crispness, that Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri and Shiekh Rashid launched a two-pronged attack on Nawaz Sharif government. While the message from both Lahore and Rawalpindi-Islamabad was similar, to march towards Raiwind after Eid in case their demands were not met, the TuQ-SR duo apparently upped the ante to unexpected dangerous levels by using foul language and hurling threats of dire consequences at Sharif brothers. But that’s what both these chaps are adept at, many would say.

Together, the three of them roared and thundered like anything, with SR’s feet literally not on ground and TuQ sometimes crossing into the realm of the absurd. But no matter how detached they appeared from reality, they were successful in instilling feelings of uncertainty among the people. Just before the start of the virtual onslaught, a TV stooge who quacks like a duck and remains ‘patient’ and ‘thankful’ offstage for whatever is thrown his way, came on screen breaking the news of TuQ’s expected hard stance and a solution a la (Gen) ‘Kakar Formula’ implemented within hours.

Country was abuzz with different kind of rumours within hours and people were asking each other, as to what was cooking.

But be it as it may. And avoiding any moral judgment, let’s try to find answers to some questions like what really is going on? What is the real purpose of this renewed round of agitation? What the three main proponents want to achieve through it and what can actually be achieved?

The threats to march on Raiwind are worrisome. But its timing is perplexing. Eid is coming and if something like that is to start it will take at least 15 – 20 days to materialise. And that’s when the month of Muharram will be about to start.

So?

Will the leaders ask their followers not to go away and stay tuned as they will be meeting after a short break? But sure, this is not a child’s play.

While there are two different types of players in the game with different kind of objectives, ‘desperation’ is what describes them all very well. If one set of people is desperate to send Sharif government packing, the other supremo is desperate to take the big brother’s seat as soon as it gets vacant. And they all seem to be banking on army’s intervention, one way or the other.

One school of thought among the political observers believe that while IK is being led by his passion (and some dubious characters around him) to oust the current rulers and for which he in consciously or subconsciously banking on the army’s intervention, the cart is before the horse in case of TuQ-SR duo who are largely believed to be taking their cue from certain quarters in the army. However, there appear certain loopholes in the game plane and certain questions which so far have no satisfactory answers.

For example if IK is banking on army’s intervention at some stage then he must know that Gen Raheel Sharif is going to retire in less than three months’ time. Same is the situation in TuQ-SR case. If they are going to mislead IK into an agitation again, they must search for an answer to this simple question; can political temperature be brought to the required point within, say, one month that can suck in the present COAS to take the risk of earning a bad name just towards the end? And why they have attached such high hopes with a person like Raheel Sharif, who has so far avoided the temptation to interfere directly in politics and who is content with running the show from behind the scene?

If there is least probability of anything like that happening, then why on earth have they timed their political assault on Sharif governments to coincide with the transition of leadership in the army? Even if one believes that IK will remain a novice forever, can TuQ and SR turn out to be such political nincompoops not to see what is obvious to even non-political minds?

The government’s response, so far, to the PTI-PAT-SR provocations is aggressive without substance. It is ‘fighting politics with politics’, as one cotemporary newspaper’s editorial puts it. Yes, one can differ with the way of the agitating trio, but there are certain questions which the government must answer and certain actions which it must take regarding the Panama Papers at least if not about the Model Town incident which in pending before the court of law.

This brings us to the point where we should look into the probability of other opposition parties joining one camp or the other. JUI (F), ANP, PkMAP are on Nawaz Sharif side. Only PPP seems to be sailing in two boats at the moment. There is a genuine need for it to be seen at PML (N) throat during the forthcoming election campaign if it is interested in its political survival. But keeping aside its pledges of joining PTI street protests if the government didn’t budge on Panama Leaks issue, will it go with IK even if it meant bidding farewell to the current democratic dispensation?

As far as MQM is concerned, suffice it to say it is in shambles and it can go in any direction in the event of a showdown. Certain quarters believe that the federal government came to its rescue after August 22.  Many believe that in case Gen Raheel Sharif retires on time and PML (N) government survives the current political turmoil, it will be able to let it off the hook. So, there is a possibility of MQM going with NS government. Yet, keeping in view the hard times it is going through at the hands of Rangers, no one can rule out a beleaguered MQM currently led by Farooq Sattar toeing the establishment line.

However, coming back to opposition’s threats of renewed street protest after Eid, many questions still remain unanswered. For example what will Shiekh Rasheed and TuQ get if Nawaz Sharif is sent home? Also, even if IK succeeds in compelling NS government without any outside interference to announce early elections, what does he hope to achieve?

This can be a good time for PML (N) to go into elections as some kind of a victim, without needing to fulfill its electoral promises, particularly, bringing an end to power load shedding. It has many things to show to the people, particularly of Punjab, like CPEC, metros and motorways, etc which can attract people’s votes.

In all probability, the current political hyper-activity appears to be yet another exercise in futility. Neither IK seems mounting enough pressure to force government into early elections, nor is it likely for the army to come to his rescue to nudge the government in certain direction for his sake. Election results in this country and in such circumstances are also something very unpredictable. The only outcomes of the forthcoming agitational round, if it starts at all, can be hardships for the common man, and economic loss and political instability for the country. Unless, we are counting out some unexpected but likely untoward occurrence or something extraordinary up the sleeves of someone out there, the trio is heading towards a dead-end and the country towards higher levels of political instability with a more weak civilian government and the balance of power tilted further in favour of military establishment.

Let’s hope IK changes his mind and plans and decides to come back to save the country from needless political and economic setbacks; the TuQ-SR duo, then, will remain barking, but won’t be able to bite.

 

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