More of the same?
The newly elected government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has finalized its federal cabinet and its direct presence in two major provinces (Punjab and KP) has also taken shape. The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan which came to power with an agenda of bringing a change to the way Pakistan is essentially governed – making interventions to uproot rampant corruption, introducing structural changes to uplift the economy and bringing reforms to various state institutions to increase their effectiveness and efficiency – has begun to feel the pressure of challenges which the party may have been unable to gauge from the outside.
In terms of rhetoric for change, PM Khan has set a high bar when it comes to promises made with the nation. The government, in the coming weeks and months, is going to push for major reforms, particularly in the area of the economy. The current government which has promised to change the socio-economic condition of the country is likely to face a number of constraints when it comes to engaging sufficient financial capital that Pakistan’s economy doesn’t have under its belt.
The current government is a result of a combination of PTI and a number of other smaller regional political parties. The political situation when it comes to PTI’s relation with its coalition partners and opposition’s alliance and response to the ruling coalition is going to be a roller coaster scenario.
The political situation when it comes to PTI’s relation with its coalition partners and opposition’s alliance and response to the ruling coalition is going to be a roller coaster scenario.
PTI doesn’t have a clear mandate to govern the country on its own. PTI’s policy of reaching out to all smaller political groups by offering them important ministries in the federal cabinet (MQM with its handful of seats got two federal ministries) was to secure the numbers required to formulate the government. However, three scenarios in this coalition are going to be important for PTI when it comes to the latter’s attempts at governing effectively or losing the premiership. First, While PTI has managed to get regional political parties to support, its unsure how the party will fulfill its promises which it has made with different political groups. For instance, PTI’s coalition with the Baluchistan National Party (BNP) which has refused to take any Ministry, has demanded that the government makes credible effort to produce missing persons from the province. The party has promised to withdraw its support for Khan if he fails to implement the agreement. With an overbearing influence of the security establishment of the country present in Baluchistan it is unclear how effectively the PTI will be able to appease BNP whose entire political agenda surrounds around the unnecessary militarization of Baluchistan. Another party which is known for negotiating hard when it comes to supporting any government at the federal level is the MQM. While MQM has for now settled by becoming part of Khan’s federal cabinet, it’s unclear how the party reacts when the ongoing military operation in Karachi rebounds again. The PML-Q in Punjab which worked with President Musharraf has gained significant space in Khan’s government in Punjab and elsewhere. The party is not likely to support Khan in Punjab if it doesn’t make any political gains, helping the organization in terms of its own political future. Imran Khan has already made a number of appointments across the country in various important sectors just to appease his coalition partners. However, the policy doesn’t coincide with the PTI’s narrative of fair governance and anti-corruption debates. The politics of compromise is here to stay if Khan wants to survive in the government. But this will have a disastrous impact on the project of democracy building in Pakistan and Imran Khan’s vision of good governance. The entire experience is likely to strengthen feudally, landed and powerful forces’ influence in Pakistan’s politics.
This situation is likely to strengthen main opposition political parties. The outgoing political party of Nawaz Sharif, while has been systematically isolated, is likely to survive not only as an organization but its narrative will thrive with the gradual pressures on PTI and its missteps in governance. The PPP, which is another main opposition party, for now, may not begin a hostile campaign against the ruling party for reasons related to the party’s own political differences with other political opposition groups and due to various ongoing corruption-related cases on the party’s leadership. Other opposition groups comprise of different Islamist groups which may not remain contained as the PTI’s loosely formed government doesn’t follow one party agenda and any small or major statements or stance on issues related to the role of Islam and legislation agendas may complicate matters for the ruling party and Pakistan.
On the whole, politics of compromise, deceit, bad-governance is here to stay where not only the ruling party stands to lose but Pakistan as well.