The Sunday meeting between Pakistan Peoples’ Party’s Chairman Bilawal Bhutto and Pakistan Muslim League’s Vice President Maryam Nawaz at latter’s Jati Umrah residence rang the alarm for the Imran Khan-led Government. It seems the two opposition parties, whose top leaders; Asif Zardari, her sister Faryal Talpur, Mian Nawaz Sharif and his nephew Hamza Shahbaz are in jail, are in a mood to launch a movement to strike down the government with the help of other opposition parties like Jamiat Ulema e Islam, Awami National Party and Balochistan National Party (Mengal). The JUI Chief Fazlur Rehman plans to hold an All Parties Conference (APC) to decide a joint strategy against the government.
Price-hike, arrests of leaders, media freedom and independence of judiciary (Justice Faez Isa Reference) are the issues that can be used by the opposition for its anti-government agenda.
The possible options for the opposition are:
- Removal of Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani, who was elected by PTI and PPP jointly, from his office through vote of no confidence. And, they may go for it to send a strong message to the government.
- Overpowering the government’s strength in National Assembly and stopping the approval of the budget through number game. The opposition leaders clearly said that they would make all out efforts against the budget’s approval.
- Galvanizing masses to the roads against the government on the issues of price-hike, unemployment and inflation.
- Supporting Supreme Court’s judge Faez Isa, facing a reference in the Supreme Judicial Council, and transform the movement into Freedom of Judiciary Drive.
The last option might be lethal for the government as majority of bar councils are already supporting Isa. It might be a resonance of Justice Movement for the restoration of former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry launched during Gen Musharraf’s rule. The movement was supported by PPP, PML-N and PTI.
The Government’s options might be:
- Withdrawal of the reference against Faez Isa to thwart the opposition’s move.
- Pacifying the allies like Balochistan National Party (Mengal) and keep its own strength intact in the parliament.
- Controlling price hike in general and lowering prices of petroleum products.
- Mounting pressure on the opposition parties by arresting more top leaders in corruption cases and forcing them to offer truce.
Apparently, it looks as if Prime Minister Khan is going to apply the last option. His recent speeches also indicate that he is not ready to budge.
The current fiscal and political situation of the country and intra-party difference within PTI are the government’s weaknesses while the jailed leadership and financial crunch are the opposition’s strength.
The PTI’s strength depends on the level of support by the Establishment, and if it is withdrawn are reduced, the government would be in hot waters.