As opposition parties converge against it, the government faces its toughest challenge yet
As opposition parties look to find common ground, the PML-N government finds itself isolated on the political front. The Model Town incident escalated the political temperature again, which had cooled down somewhat since the announcement of military operation in Waziristan. Now, with Tahirul Qadri’s ‘revolution’ in waiting and PTI readying for a march on Islamabad on Aug14, the government is potentially facing the toughest challenge of its tenure so far.
Hassan Askari Rizvi, a senior analyst, thinks that time is of the essence for the government to tackle the developing crisis. “Ramzan and then Eid has bought government four to five weeks and it needs to find a political solution during this time,” he said, talking to Pakistan Today. He also noted that the political opposition is trying to find common ground.
“Opposition forces now want the government to step down and efforts to form an alliance are also being made,” he said.
The Qadri revolution
Tahirul Qadri has clearly assumed the role of the anti-government spearhead. And he is not ready to settle for anything less than a complete revolution this time. But exactly what course he intends to take remains a mystery, perhaps even for his own party members.
PTI has been very cautious when it comes to engaging with Tahirul Qadri’s revolution, maintaining what seems to be a purposely vague stance.
Qazi Faiz, secretary information of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) said, “Our revolution will get rid of this government and the corrupt system”. When asked if PAT had any specific agenda he said, “We do not want to confuse people by announcing the specifics of our revolution yet and Dr Qadri will disclose them at the right time”.
Qazi Faiz said his party has called for an All Parties Conference (APC) to reach a consensus regarding what steps to take against the government. He further stated, “We are looking to form a working relationship with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and we hope to have them with us in future”. Hinting towards the ‘revolution timeline’, he said Tahirul Qadri will give his final call within this year and “there will be more than 10 million people on the roads”.
The reluctant revolutionists
PTI has been very cautious when it comes to engaging with Tahirul Qadri’s revolution, maintaining what seems to be a purposely vague stance. PTI sees a lot of commonality with PAT but differs on the method to get their demands met. Although PTI tacitly approves of PAT, it has not explicitly formed any kind of an alliance with it. Arif Alvi, a senior PTI leader, while talking to Pakistan Today said, “It is not a ‘with them’ or ‘against them’ question”, we agree on some issues with PAT but we are not necessarily in an alliance with them”.
Alvi further said that PTI mainly wanted election reforms and for that “investigation of the four nominated constituencies is the only acceptable starting point”. He said the government has not entertained the demand in over a year and now PTI has to increase the pressure. “The government has been unresponsive to our demand and this is why we are building momentum now”.
Hassan Askari Rizvi predicts that PTI will now not just settle on its initial demand and will up its ante. “I think they will go beyond the demand of probing into four constituencies and will look to remove the government”. Imran Khan’s announcement of the Aug14 march during his Bahawalpur address vindicated Rizvi’s position.
The government is faced with opposition pressure on numerous fronts. Even if an alliance is not formed, it will have its hands full in the coming days.
Arif Alvi, however, remarked that government’s approach has been self-damaging. “We have not done anything yet, it is the government who is doing itself all the harm”.
Government: too strong or just naïve?
The government is faced with opposition pressure on numerous fronts. Even if an alliance is not formed, it will have its hands full in the coming days. While Tahirul Qadri remains adamant to overthrow the government, PTI’s approach is also likely to get more aggressive. However, amid all the odds, the PML-N leadership seems content about its ‘strong’ position.
“People gave this government a heavy mandate and it is not in danger at all,” said Talal Chaudhry, an N-league MNA. He further said that Tahirul Qadri and the parties around him are not democratic.
“They have supported dictatorships before and now they just want to destabilise democracy again. Chaudhry added that the government did not feel threatened by PTI and “if they take to the streets it will only damage their political future”. Chaudhry, referring to the NWA operation, said that presently it should just be about the state and not about politics, and that “mature and patriotic parties are standing by the government at this crucial time”.
For Hassan Askari Rizvi, however, the danger is too great to be ignored. He thinks the government will have to act proactively in the moth of Ramzan to find political solutions. He also thinks that the unfolding situation may turn out to be detrimental to democracy. He noted that “democracy in Pakistan is in danger and its future is uncertain”.
These are no doubt tough times for the government. While PAT remains a lurking danger, it needs to tackle the increasing opposition from Tehreek-e-Insaf as well. Ending its political isolation and gathering the support of other parties can be an initial step in this regard. Even though the opposition against the government is escalating, the political environment is likely to remain calm during Ramzan. How the PML-N uses this month to its advantage will test its political acumen.