So much is happening in Pakistan’s political arena that it has become increasingly difficult to predict the outcome of the political game being played out in the country. Be it the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) sit-in in Karachi, appointment of ISI chief and the government’s decision to provide microeconomic relief to the masses, all these developments add to uncertainty vis-à-vis the emerging political scenario.
Since taking over as the premier, Sharif’s focus has remained on developing mega projects. Projects like Gwadar Port, economic corridor from Balochistan to China, a chain of power plants are all beneficial to the country but the apparent lack of action in addressing people’s woes may not be in the interest of the government. The success of Imran Khan in attracting a huge number of people in Karachi has sent alarm bells ringing in the power corridors. After that impressive show of power in Karachi, Khan is all set to hold similar gatherings in Lahore and Multan.
Like most analysts, Khan was also overwhelmed by the public response and chose to speak his heart out against the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (N). He, however, avoided even a milder criticism of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), whose leader Altaf Hussain, realizing that the public enthusiasm may well threaten his own popularity, had welcomed the PTI chief as his honored guest barely a few hours before the show began.
“It was a great show,” admitted an eminent MQM leader in a private discussion, disputing the number of people, which even the foreign media put at close to 250,000.
The promotions in the army and appointment of the new ISI also became hot topics. The appointment of DG Gen. Rizwan Akhtar came to many as a surprise. Normally a freshly promoted officer is not given such an important position. But Akhtar has been reportedly chosen due to his experience in dealing with Taleban and in a city where terror and mafia gangs have turned the economic capital of the country into a killing field.
Whether the new ISI chief will impact the political landscape is difficult to predict. He is reputed as a professional soldier but could not escape criticism from the MQM for mysterious disappearance and killings of MQM workers during his tenure. It would be premature to predict MQM’s reaction, but a sign of relief is definitely visible in the ruling party camp because of the reported unanimity on the sensitive appointment between Sharif and the army chief.
As ISI chief Akhtar will have to deal with the oversensitive situation in Afghanistan. A new government has taken over in the country on Pakistan’s western borders but a clear uneasiness is felt among the American and Afghan officials over the aftermath of the North Waziristan operation. Hamid Karzai is out of the presidency there, but Abdullah Abdullah as the new chief executive in Kabul, is known for his tough stance on Pakistan.
Due to persistent attacks from Khan and Tahirul Qadri, Sharif is being cautious this time around, as he avoided taking a large entourage with him to New York for the 69th UN General Assembly session. He had also ordered relief to power consumers overcharged by electricity companies. Ban on government recruitments has also been lifted. The real impact of these measures can only be gauged in the coming months.