Why is the PM in electoral mode? -Pakistan

“If suicide were not outlawed (haram), I would go to parliament with explosives and detonate it,” roared defendant Shehryar Afridi, a leading figure in the ruling PTI and former minister of state in Interior, addressing supporters in Pashto. in his constituency of Kohat this week.

As applause was added to the video towards the end, those visible in frame sat quietly, looking almost bored. In what could be a telling reaction, a supporter approached the PTI leader from behind, holding a glass of water.

Mr. Afridi was not alone in aspiring to become a suicide bomber. Civil Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar, whose irresponsible statement to parliament crippled the national flag carrier’s global operations in a fatal blow, has also publicly spoken of his desire to become a suicide bomber and break through the ranks of opponents.

These two statements by key lieutenants of the Prime Minister are enough to measure the atmosphere of absolute despair in the camp of the ruling party, despite courageous words, as a vote of no confidence looms in the National Assembly.

It remains to be seen whether the “surprise” that will be delivered at the rally will alter a dismal scenario for the government.

The vote may have already taken place and its consequences become public if the speaker of the National Assembly had acted in accordance with the demands of his office and had not kept his promise: “I stand with Imran Khan” . In any case, he can delay the inevitable by as much and no more.

For his part, to keep his spirits up, the Prime Minister himself continues to appear defiant and insists that he will emerge victorious from the parliamentary vote, but has gone into electoral mode by opting for public meetings where he appears to be brandishing election slogans before the supporters.

Read: Will Prime Minister Imran’s trump card help him survive the no-confidence vote?

Given his track record of promising millions of jobs and building hundreds of thousands of homes for the poor and then failing, he now focuses on vague slogans but he believes will be bought off by enough of voters.

Certainly, he attracts crowds and is able to recharge his supporters with what has been seen from his rallies. The crowning glory will be his public meeting of a million people in Islamabad and by the time you read this you will have a good idea of ​​how it goes.

I have no doubt that being in office with all the paraphernalia at his disposal and having considerable appeal among the urban middle class, a huge crowd will gather on the parade ground in Islamabad on Sunday.

What remains to be seen is whether the ‘surprise’ that will be delivered at the rally, which the Prime Minister and his top spin-docs have been talking about, will drastically alter a dismal scenario for the government in any meaningful way or will will turn out to be a wet firecracker.

What is certain is that from now on the Prime Minister will be keen to sell the line ‘all my opponents are corrupt and looting and overthrow me to avoid facing the law’. Of course, he won’t dwell on how many of these “crooks” have been convicted in fair trials during his nearly four years in power despite a relentless campaign that many have dismissed as a witch hunt.

The other main feature of his campaign will be that he is a “bold and honorable leader who is being punished for defending the sovereignty of the country”. He will, and has, name the US and the West, including the EU, as supporting his ouster because he defied them.

Proof of this defiance would be his statement that he said “absolutely not” to the United States about Washington’s request to be assigned bases to operate armed drones, even though there is very little evidence. , public or otherwise, that the United States has made such requests. And, of course, the EU for asking the Prime Minister in an open letter from his ambassadors – an ill-conceived decision, if you ask me – to join those who condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine in the ‘UN. This followed the prime minister’s rather reckless visit to Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin on the day the latter’s forces launched their invasion of Ukraine.

Anti-American slogans are working wonders in Pakistan where, ironically, anecdotal evidence suggests that countless numbers of people will accept the green card as a precious gift and happily go to live in the country they regard as the “mother of all”. evils” at home. .

Notwithstanding what looks like Imran Khan’s re-election campaign, there is still some way to go for new elections unless the surprise he has up his sleeve is a sudden dissolution of the two provincial assemblies he controls. .

If he is considering such a move at all, he may pause to wonder who else wants an immediate election and has been dragging his feet in negotiations with other parties ahead of the no-confidence vote on the lonely leave question. the current parliament complete its term.

Seeing the crowds that Imran Khan draws at his rallies, some analysts predict an increase in his declining popularity. Whenever there is an election, Mr. Khan will not have the land all to himself. On the main battleground of Punjab, Maryam Nawaz, the crowd puller, has the potential to swing the game in her party’s direction. Even better if Nawaz Sharif is able to campaign alongside his daughter as well.

The Prime Minister seems aware of the challenges awaiting him and also plays the religion card, ‘Amr bil Ma’aroof’ being one of them. The battle between “good and evil” à la Trump is also used. We hope that March 27 will not be our January 6.

After the last elections triggered instability with a devastating impact on the economy, the need of the hour is for early, fresh and credible elections. And a commitment from state institutions to let the victor continue his task of running the country unhindered. No political engineering, please.

The writer is a former Dawn editor.


Posted in Dawn, March 27, 2022

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