Shehbaz returns | Pakistan Today

Shehbaz returns

  • Will the budget let the opposition launch a movement?

National Assembly Leader of the Opposition Mian Shehbaz Sharif’s return home from London, where he had gone on bail from NAB custody, means two things. First, those who had tried to say that he had actually fled abroad and was not going to come back, have been proved wrong, and will now have to find some other means of lowering opposition morale. Second, it means that the Opposition will not go into the National Assembly’s coming Budget session leaderless. Also, while it leaves still unanswered the question about whether or not the opposition will launch a protest movement against the government, it does provide one of the enabling circumstances for one.

At the same time as Mian Shehbaz’s return, it cannot be said that the Economic Survey 2019-2020, to be released today, ahead of tomorrow’s budget in accordance with tradition, provides good news for the government. The failure of the economy to meet any of the targets set for the present financial year, now in its last month, will be blamed by the PTI on the PML-N government, but as the report is for the year which saw the PTI taking office, the absence of any signs of a meaningful turnaround can only provide grist for opposition mills.

In fact, the opposition may well focus solely on economic issues after the presentation of the Budget, as it sees the government’s struggles to meet the IMF’s conditions as providing it an opportunity to gather public support behind it. As the Budget is expected to set as revenue target of Rs5.55 trillion, to tackle the fiscal and trade deficits, it also seems possible that it will be forced to present a budget so harsh that it will force people out into the streets.

At the same time, the opposition may find that it is not yet ready to launch a movement. The PPP has still not yet made sufficient preparations, though the meeting called, with both Asif Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari chairing, also indicates that it is playing catch-up with the PML-N. However, making an attempt to remove a government so early in its term would seem to require more effort than the opposition is putting in.