THE shifting sands of Pakistani politics seem to have taken an ominous turn with the opposition alliance finally tabling a no-confidence motion against the prime minister. The decision demonstrates the confidence of the combined opposition that it has mustered enough votes in the National Assembly to oust the PTI government.
It is surely a calculated gamble but the odds are heavily against the PTI ruling coalition. There is, however, no precedence in Pakistan’s political history of any elected government having been removed through a vote of no-confidence. The game is on with both sides engaging in political wheeling and dealing. It will be another two weeks of uncertainty before the voting can take place. Given the unpredictability of Pakistani politics, nothing can be taken for granted at this stage.
There has been a major shift in the country’s political scene over the last few months with the two main opposition parties — the PML-N and PPP — joining hands against the government. The perception that the military leadership has distanced itself from the government has given a further boost to the opposition.
In order to increase the pressure on the administration, the opposition planned a march on Islamabad before the no-confidence vote. That has further charged the political atmosphere. The government is certainly feeling the heat, as is evident by the prime minister’s move to appease his estranged coalition partners.
But it is the widening cracks within the ruling party that may mark the end game. The growing ranks of dissidents have worsened the woes of the prime minister. The latest revolt against the Punjab chief minister signals the unraveling of the party that could also threaten the survival of the PTI government at the center.
While the opposition alliance is all geared up for the final battle the prime minister is vowing to fight till the end. His decision to go to the public seems to be a desperate move to salvage the situation. But that may not help prevent the slide that is underway. His speech at a public rally in south Punjab last week indicates that he is fumbling under pressure. His populist thundering has further exposed his vulnerability.
Interestingly, it is not only the opposition leaders who have been the target of his attack; he has also publicly slammed the Western nations for what he describes as their double standards. It is rare for a head of government to deploy a sensitive foreign policy matter for domestic political purposes.
While the prime minister’s indiscretion and irresponsible statements in the past seriously damaged our diplomatic relations, his latest comments at a recent public rally were most inappropriate and exposed his lack of understanding of critical foreign and security policy issues.
But it will not be easy for the opposition alliance to buy the loyalties of the PTI dissidents either. It is a murky power game with the members going for the highest offer. Moreover, what happens next will also depend on whether the security establishment stays neutral in the game.
The outcome of the no-confidence vote would determine the future course of politics in the country. The ouster of the PTI government may not end the prevailing political uncertainty.
His unnecessary statement that he has until November to decide on the extension of the army chief’s tenure is also seen in this context.
Whatever the truth of his relations with the military, the opposition has used the situation to its advantage. And whether or not he survives the no-trust vote, it is time for him to think hard about the factors that have brought together a deeply divided opposition and his close associates on one platform for the purpose of ousting him.