Things falling apart?

  • Nawaz’s exit revealed cracks in the coalition

The most prominent dissenter from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s hardline policy on sending ex-PM Nawaz Sharif abroad was PML-Q chief Ch Shujat Hussain. The cracks created by the issue are best illustrated by the views of the man who was the chief government negotiator with Maulana Fazlur Rehman during the recent Azadi March. Though Ch Shujat was unable to bring the negotiations to a conclusion, not only is he an ally of great importance because cousin Pervez Elahi is Punjab Speaker, but because his party is all-important for the PTI’s Punjab government. His view, that Mr Khan is receiving bad advice, indicates how strongly he feels that Mr Khan was ill-advised to demand a surety bond from Mian Nawaz. He is not the only ally to feel upset. The MQM-Pakistan has also chosen this juncture to say that it too is not satisfied. Perhaps most troublesome for the PTI is that both the PML-Q and the MQM-P have included economic performance in their separate critiques, which would indicate that both are worried by the way the economic team has been performing.

It is not just the economic team. There have been reports that NAB demanded that the surety bond be demanded. Apart from the fact of the impropriety of the executive taking on the judicial function of ensuring a suspect’s attendance, there is also the question of why an executive body should loom so large on Mr Khan’s horizon.

There are whispers of a Cabinet reshuffle being caused by all this, with the intention of purging the Cabinet of dissenting voices, particularly those who favoured a tough line with Mr Sharif. With the government having been in office for 15 months, this would be a second reshuffle. Mr Khan must have realised that the previous reshuffle has not worked, and the economy has not been fixed. It does seem that more change would merely unsettle the present combination. The problem may well be that the PTI has not got people in Parliament who are up to the job of serving as ministers. Mr Khan must be realising by now that the country is more difficult to run than its cricket team.