- No unifying figure available
The Opposition cannot keep putting off a decision about when exactly it is to make good on its murmurings about a movement against the government, not now that two significant milestones have been crossed. The first is that of the Budget, duly presented to the National Assembly on Tuesday. The opposition had been predicting a Budget that would crush the people as the government tried to implement the IMF’s conditionalities. The government has claimed that it is awash with welfare measures. The test will come if the opposition finds enough anger on the street that lets it motivate people to bring out protests. The second milestone the government has crossed is the arrests of opposition leaders. This has hit the major parties. While PPP co-Chairman Asif Zardari has been arrested after the expiry of his bail, the PML-N has also been struck, by the arrest of its Vice-President and Punjab Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz. Both have been arrested by NAB in cases registered long before, after prolonged legal battles, but their arrests will give pause to other party leaders who should be using these arrests to guide any protest movement that may be sparked off.
The JUI-F was in the forefront of the parties calling for a removal of the PTI federal government. On the other hand, the ANP had promised a movement against inflation ‘after Eid’–now long over, and a Pakhtun Qaumi Jirga on June 14. It should be remembered that both parties are focused on KP, where the PTI first won power, and where it was re-elected in 2018. It must also not be forgotten that though the PTI majority in KP is comfortable, there is an election campaign on for the first-ever provincial elections of the merged tribal areas. Parties which are not so deeply invested in KP may wish to know what these two parties are willing to do nationwide.
A major problem for the opposition is that of unity. There is no central figure around whom the parties might unite, and there is also no clear alternative programme offered by any party, to deal with the economic crisis that is being decried. An opposition is indeed supposed to oppose, but if it wants to topple the government, it should offer an alternative.