What can happen in September?
By Mazhar Abbas
The possible outcome of the opposition movement in September, when it will reach its peak, depends on how the opposition parties play their cards to see the possible fall of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the dream of key opposition leader, Imran Khan, and that too without any ‘third party’ intervention.
The government, on the other hand, is also feeling the political heat and Sharif has finally decided to reach out to some opposition parties and resolve differences within his own rank and file.
In emerging political developments came the rare visit of PML-N leaders to MQM hunger-strike camp and that too on PM’s instruction. It’s could be “break the ice” point if PM-MQM talks are held in the next couple of days.
The opposition has also sensed the importance of MQM in case it intends to launch a movement, which would be joined by the PPP. On the instructions from party’s Dubai leadership, the party leader, Syed Khursheed Shah, visited the MQM camp, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah ordered release of its six workers, who were arrested last week. This is the first sign of relief from both sides in the backdrop of the developing situation.
PM Sharif has also sent its aide, retired Lt-General Abdul Qadir Baloch to the leader of Functional Muslim League, Pir Pagaro, days after one of its leader, Imtiaz Sheikh joined the PPP.
All these development indicate that it will certainly be a hot political summer for both the camps. The PM recently met the angry PML-N MNAs and MPAs followed by his meetings with his allies. Sharif’s huge task also includes resolving differences within his cabinet members, which in case of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar and Defence Minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif looked the most difficult task.
Chances of success in the patch-up with former President Asif Ali Zardari looked a bit difficult as PPP has placed some tough conditions in the backdoor contacts, which can only be possible for PM to accept after November.
Even otherwise Mr Zardari doesn’t want to go into the next general elections with the tag of a ‘friendly opposition’, which had damaged the party in Punjab. Some PPP leaders also want that Mr Zardari should also finally decide about his own fate as the PPP candidates in Punjab still not ready to go into elections with his “portrait or photograph,’ on the poster.
On the other hand, differences still persist within the opposition as well as how to convert a campaign into an agitation and ultimate mass movement and that too from one platform. Some within the opposition camp still looked towards the possible ‘third party’ intervention, but Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, now close to an agreement with the PPP, that in no circumstances they would support any extra-constitutional adventure.
However, an interesting observation from PPP central leader Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan in an interview two days back that in case army General Raheel Sharif retires in November, PM Nawaz Sharif would become most powerful even surprised some top PPP leaders who were quite sceptical about his ‘agenda’.
But Allama Tahirul Qadri, a firebrand speaker and leader of an organised and disciplined force, namely Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) has now taken a driving seat and ahead of Imran Khan in the campaign. He looked in a more aggressive mood and is among those ‘hawkish leader’ who may not hesitate in demanding third party intervention at the peak in the movement. So, let’s wait for his announcement on August 28.
Interestingly, he is also among those leaders who are capable of withdrawing from any movement at its peak, depends on the possible outcome. So, no one knows about his next strategy except for those who matter the most.
In the next two to three weeks, we may see legal battle through street pressure on the one hand and political manoeuvring on the other hand. First, let’s have a look and analyse the possible political scenario, which can emerge.
Following events are expected during September, which can change the political discourse in the country. (1) Decision on the references, filed before National Assembly speaker by both the PML-N against Imran Khan and opposition against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
(2) Outcome of the similar kind of references, filed before the newly formed Election Commission of Pakistan, which though has 90 days to decide, but its proceeding can go on fast pace from September 6, as well.
(3) Filing of petitions in the Supreme Court on which the opposition is still divided, and Imran Khan, who last week had announced going to the SC, has now been advised to drop the idea except in case of an adverse decision of the ECP.
(4) Possible Joint Opposition Alliance comprising PTI, PAT, PPP, JI and MQM. If the opposition succeeds in forming the alliance, and all these parties join hands, things would become harder for Sharif and the PML.
(5) Opposition opts for en bloc resignation from National Assembly, Senate and provincial assemblies, which can result in fall of two provincial governments, dissolution of Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblies and most importantly fate of the Senate, where the opposition is in majority.
But, a million dollar question is: Will the opposition opt for this option? It could create political upheaval in the country, which could lead situation to any direction including PM’s resignation and if he refuses, possible intervention.
On the other hand, if the speaker and the ECP reject opposition’s references and it also fails in getting relief from the superior courts, it would not only strengthen PM but also the PML-N. So, Sharif is certainly not out of the race and legal victory here would further bleak the chances for Imran and further shrink the PPP.
Therefore, success of the opposition movement depends on the outcome of the references filed before the NA speaker and the ECP, as they have now reached a consensus not to file a petition before the Supreme Court, as in case of any setback in the SC, its movement may die down.
The outcome of the ECP reference would set the tone as the present composition of EC comprising members who have the backing of both the government and the opposition. Therefore, it is also a level playing field for both and one has to wait and see as which side can take better advantage of the politically hot conditions in the field.
If the situation reaches the point where the matter is referred to the ‘third umpire’, it may not necessarily be the same decision as was in 2014. At present, the match is evenly poised with slight advantage in favour of the government due to division in the opposition camp. The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang.