Speaker of National Assembly, Ayaz Sadiq, voiced his fears of the incumbent assembly being unable to complete its tenure due to internal and external challenges shocked everyone, including his own party leaders. However, he ruled out possibilities of martial law. Responding to these apprehensions, Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, says that the fear might be his personal opinion, and that the assemblies will complete their tenure.
Opposition Leader in National Assembly, Khurshid Shah, supported Sadiq’s statement saying, “The speaker might have sensed the dangers looming over the parliament.”
Factually speaking, PML-N Government is facing several challenges simultaneously. Political situations are taking sharp turns. Political and non-political forces are wheeling dealing with each other for Election 2018 or taking their share in the caretaker setup.
PML-N Government has been pounded with several setbacks starting with the resignation of former Information Minister, Pervaiz Rasheed, due to the Dawn Leaks issue, followed by the biggest blow; Nawaz’s disqualification by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Panama Leaks Case. Several bumps coming ahead. Corruption cases against Sharif family are under trial. Former Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar, another PML-N stalwart is also in hot water as a case against him is also under trial. There are high chances that Shahbaz Sharif, the backbone of PML-N in Punjab, and his sons would also be implicated in Hudabia Paper Mills case which would be another setback for the ruling league.
Aside from all this, the real threats to the government are anti-government movements by opposition parties and resignations by national and provincial legislators. Justice Baqir Najafi’s Inquiry Report into the Model Town Tragedy, in which police killed 9 activists including two women of Pakistan Awami Tehrik has been made public. The PAT Chief and a firebrand Cleric, Dr Tahirul Qadri, wants Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah be tried for murder charges. He also wants to launch a movement on the streets. Opposition parties including Pakistan Peoples’ Party, Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf and PML-Q have assured Qadri of their full support for a mass protest. This movement can be lethal for the existing government, if it happens.
However, the hardest trial for the ruling party will be resignations by its own legislators due to a religious issue and the upcoming Senate’s Elections in March 2018. The Government was under immense pressure by Tehrik e Labaik Pakistan on the issue of amending a few words of the oath for candidates in the Election Bill 2017. The amendment was withdrawn, the federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid resigned after TLP staged a 21-day sit-in in Islamabad. The aftermath of the protest continues to loom over the government. Two members of National Assembly and three members of Punjab Assembly resigned on the call of a spiritual leader Pir Hameedud Din Sialvi, who initially sought Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah’s resignation for commenting on sensitive religious issues. The PML-N must brace for more resignations in the near future.
The PPP’s co-chairman Asif Zardari had challenged PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif a few months ago that he would not let him win Senate’s elections. With its present strength in Punjab, Balochistan and KP, the PML-N is in a strong position to get majority seats which the PPP and PTI cannot afford as both presume to form government after Elections 2018. In such a situation, Zardari may ask his parliamentarians to resign from National Assembly and Sindh Assembly, creating a complex situation for the Senate’s elections which cannot be held in absence of complete electoral colleges which are mainly provincial assemblies and partially National Assembly. PTI may follow PPP’s footprints in this regard. Such situation might compel the PML-N to dissolve the National and Punjab assemblies and opt for early elections instead of going for by-elections for dozens of seats. Even then, holding elections would be an uphill task for PML-N as it could not evolve a consensus in the National Assembly about delimitation of constituencies so far, which is due after the new census. Thus, Sadiq’s apprehensions appear to be true.