By D. Imran Khalid
Indubitably, Pakistan is nowadays passing through one of the most turbulent periods in its recent history. On the surface, it is a serious political turmoil. But, intrinsically, it is an amalgamation of financial and political tribulations which are dragging the country into the slough of uncertainty. The whole saga started in mid-March this year, when the Opposition submitted the no-confidence motion against former Prime Minister Imran Khan in the National Assembly. Since then, the political arena of Pakistan has been witnessing many swirling ups and downs on daily basis for all the players, but there is only person who is finding himself being continuously whirled into the quagmire of despondency and anguish, without any hope of respite in the near future. This is none other than Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Every stakeholder has gained something out of the existing political turmoil – all the political parties in the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the ruling coalition, except the Prime Minister’s own party Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), have relatively bigger share in the federal cabinet and other lucrative postings. Ironically, Imran Khan too, despite losing the premiership, has emerged as the biggest beneficiary of this episode by successfully diverting attention from his extremely dismal performance as the PM to his new agitation movement against the current coalition government, with a new tagline of “imported government – namanzoor” (imported government is unacceptable).
Former Prime Minister has openly alleged that the United States conspired with the Pakistani establishment and PDM (current ruling coalition) to topple his government through a no-trust motion. That’s why he has labelled the current coalition regime as the “imported government” because it was planted by Washington through a conspiracy with the help of the establishment (army). This is a seriously dubious allegation without any tangible proof and it has been categorically refuted by the White House as well as the spokesperson of the Pakistan Army.
But Imran Khan has made this allegation as the main mantra of his protest campaign after his dismissal through a no-trust motion in the parliament. And now he has been demanding early general elections. Interestingly, it is the same establishment that was considered to be his main patron till March this year and which also blatantly helped him to become the Prime Minister after his 22 years of straying in political wilderness.
The reality is that Imran Khan was already in hot waters due to his inefficient financial management of the country. At the start of 2022, when the public resentment was picking up momentum against the astronomical inflation, continuous devaluation of rupee and bad governance, it was all clear that Imran Khan would have a very tough time at the annual budget session in June and political analysts had already started talking about his dwindling chances to survive after the annual budget session.
The removal from power before the budget session has actually proven a blessing in disguise for Imran Khan, whose popularity is now inversely soaring high because of a very effective protest campaign that is playing the sympathy and patriotism cards against the so-called imported government. He has been conducting unabated protest gatherings, press conferences, media interviews and image-building through social media platforms ever since he was thrown out of the PM house in April.
In the last days of the PTI government, the value of rupee was melting fast, commodity prices and petrol prices were jacking up on almost weekly basis, Imran Khan was in deep mess and it was expected that after the 2022-2023 budget the PTI government would not be able to survive against the disgruntlement of the public any longer.
All was set for the “natural political demise” of the PTI government. The Opposition had to just wait for few more months and the PTI would have been out of the corridors of power under the extreme public pressure against the high inflation, fuel prices and eroding value of rupee. In the absence of good financial managers – courtesy the long list of incompetent and clueless heads of the PTI’s finance team – Imran Khan changed 4 finance ministers in the last 2 years- the PTI government had actually no concrete plans to salvage the country from impending financial catastrophe.
The Opposition, particularly the leadership of PML-N, needed a little more patience for few months to let the erosion of the PTI government to take its natural course. But the Opposition – the PDA to be more exact – showed unnecessary haste in getting rid of Imran Khan at a very wrong time, though for all the right reasons. Till April, it was clear to everybody, even to the common men in the streets, that the country was heading towards a massive financial crunch after the budget session.
Everyone was expecting that the currency devaluation will be drowned to new lows, fuel prices will cross the Rs.200 mark the imposition of the IMF dictation will make it almost impossible for any finance head of Pakistan to steer the economy out of this vicious circle in the near future. Writing on the wall was very clear in early April; the uncontrollable storm of inflation, price-hiking, electricity distribution disruptions and unemployment will eat up the political career of Imran Khan.
But instead of showing some patience, the PML-N leadership toed the line of the stalwarts of the PDM like Asif Ali Zardari and Maulana Fazalur Rehman who wanted to get rid of Imran Khan as quickly as possible. While Mian Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister and chief of PML-N, was also fiercely against removing Imran Khan before the budget session. Now the question is what prompted Mian Shehbaz Sharif, against the advice of his elder brother Mian Nawaz Sharif, to jump into the fray and take up such a step, which can at best be described as “utterly rash” at a time when economy was heading towards massive crisis.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is the one who is facing the brunt of the harsh realities of running a government with both hands and pockets tied. The rupee devaluation against dollar has crossed a Rs.210, the petrol prices have also followed the dollar, electricity distribution is getting out of control in this blistering summer and commodity prices are skyrocketing. All the right ingredient to make any government highly unpopular. Most of the financial and technical experts agree that these landmines were planted by the inept and incompetent finance team of the PTI government, which made delayed and faulty financial decisions that dragged the country into this financial imbroglio.
But now PM Shehbaz Sharif, not other partners of his coalition government, is being blamed for his inability to control the unabating financial predicament. PM Shehbaz Sharif was well aware of the impending financial crunch and its fallout on the popularity of the PML-N. Mian Nawaz Sharif was also seriously against tabling the no-confidence motion before the budget session. But both Asif Ali Zardari and Maulana Fazalur Rehman shrewdly exploited the old, burning desire of Mian Shehbaz Sharif to wear the cap of premiership and convinced him to strike Imran Khan out of power in April, which has so far proven to be a miss-timed stroke for PM Shehbaz Sharif. (IPA Service)
By arrangement with the Arabian Post