With only day until Ramadan, one would think the political chaos would have subsided by now, with some olive branches or white flags being waved around—something, anything, to intervene immediately in a very dangerous circumstance to bring about calm. However, things are only getting worse. Imran Khan, the chairman of the PTI, appeared in front of the camera as usual following the operation at Zaman Park.
Visibly furious, he referred to the government as shameless for targeting his people and his home. He appeared to have calmed down somewhat yesterday, though he has now claimed that a ‘death trap’ was waiting for him at the Judicial Complex during his hearing and that he ‘barely escaped’ this death trap.
The PTI does not appear to want to back down. And it appears that the Punjab government has decided not to back down from a fight, as evidenced by Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi’s no-holds-barred press conference, in which he stated that the police cannot provide security to Imran while receiving threats from the PTI and that the PTI is perpetuating terrorism.
When it comes to governments, governance, democracy, and institutional boundaries, Pakistan does not have an enviable track record. However, in the past, someone has seen sense and attempted to defuse the situation at this point or even before. Not any longer. We are in the midst of a perfect storm, and the collision course appears to be unavoidable given how quickly the political temperature has risen in less than a week. It is tempting to equate all sides in this tedious equation, but when it comes to talks and negotiations, the PTI has been the first to reject any attempt. Even now, with the government hinting at negotiations and the PTI appearing to be on board, Imran has released a new twist in the story: an alleged assassination plot against him hatched apparently in London.
In addition, the PTI has been engaging in daily challenges to the state’s writ. Surprisingly, as he and his party drag institutions into a purely political battle, Imran has now claimed that the coalition government is attempting to sow divisions within the PTI and the army. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that the PTI has launched a smear campaign against the army commander and that Imran is harming the nation and undermining the armed services in his desire for power. Shehbaz has not been surpassed, especially in this case.
With this new version of politics being brought by the extremely populist PTI, which may have remained blue-eyed for so long that adhering to the rules established for everyone else bothers the party, the majority of people recognise that politics have changed. The issue is that this path of political cooperation may eventually lead to something considerably more harmful and dangerous if no one steps back and polls are not held on time. Some argue that CM Naqvi’s hint that the government will write to the ECP about the PTI’s “terrorism” is a move in that direction.
The PTI is at war with the state, and there is little to support the party’s recent acts. But the government must also resist the urge to support the PTI. Can we hope that Ramazan will restore some sanity to this country’s politics? Will all stakeholders, political and otherwise, consider the country’s future? There are few indications that the people are anyone’s priority right now, as arrests, operations, unfounded allegations, and default rumours dominate the news on a daily basis.