- No respite in sight
In his speech to Pakistani Americans in Washington’s packed Capitol One Arena, Prime Minister Imran Khan declared he would go back home and see to the removal of perks available to incarcerated former PM Nawaz Sharif. The statement, as expected, got cheers from the crowd and perhaps the only thing missing from the event was a container to stand on as the rest of it was reminiscent of the dharna days. After his return, Mr Khan has made good on his promise with Nawaz likely to lose privileges afforded to him under the jail manual. Meanwhile efforts to arrest and jail as much of the opposition parties’ leadership and their close friends and aides through various institutions under a variety of charges are afoot. The latest of these arrests is that of Irfan Siddiqui, a close confidant of Nawaz Sharif, for violating tenancy laws in the capital where he had rented his house without informing the relevant authorities- a violation for which bail can be given immediately, yet Siddiqui was presented before a magistrate in handcuffs and sent to jail for two weeks.
Two days back, the all major opposition parties observed a ‘Black Day’ against the PTI government with protest rallies across the country following which the federal cabinet has decided to ‘toughen its stance against the opposition’ but their rallies and public meetings would not be stopped. This is a deceitful statement given that over 2,000 people, including two senior leaders of the PPP and PML-N have been booked for ‘disrupting the peace’ in Lahore after their respective rallies on ‘Black Day’. What began as ‘across the board accountability’ has now clearly evolved into some sort of personal vendetta against all those who are critical of Mr Khan and his government. A thicker skin is required to endure five years in government but with the ongoing continuous muzzling of dissenting voices, it seems the strategy here is to not even allow space for speaking, let alone criticising the government. Pushing the opposition up against the wall with no intention of forming a modicum of consensus inside or outside Parliament is neither a rational nor a tenable approach to running the country. The PTI must reconsider this for its own good.