PTI chief Imran Khan has blinked first in the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with the government. On Monday Mr Khan had called on supporters to rally outside the headquarters of the Election Commission of Pakistan to demand Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja’s resignation. Two days later PTI Secretary General Asad Umar told activists to get ready for the protest. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah however made it clear that while the government was willing to allow the PTI to hold a gathering inside F-9 Park or the Parade Ground, it was determined not to allow a protest anywhere in the Red Zone, including outside the ECP offices. It was sensible on the part of Mr Khan to cancel the protest gathering and instead send a PTI delegation to meet the CEC as well as other members of the commission to record the party’s protest over the verdict on prohibited funds.
It is not clear if the decision to reduce confrontation came from Mr Khan or was taken on the advice of others. It is nevertheless realistic. After the withdrawal of support by the establishment, the PTI has to move cautiously as the party will have to bear the consequences of any misstep taken by the leadership. Mr Khan should have realized by now that while it is easier to announce million marches, these can turn out to be futile if an elected government decides to crush these with the help of the state’s repressive machinery. While opposition parties sometimes resort to agitations, these are undertaken only after exhausting all other options. The PTI is now taking its grievances to courts though the best way is to resolve these through talks with the federal government.
Mr Khan is in haste to return to power and therefore wants immediate elections. The ruling alliance challenges his claim that “markets were tumbling, industries were closing down and the economy is in a free fall.” It maintains that it has significantly reduced the trade deficit, leading to the rupee making its highest single-day gain of Rs9.59 in the interbank market. The ruling alliance claims that by the end of this month friendly countries and the IMF will fulfill their financial commitments. Keeping in view that things seem to be improving, albeit slowly, the PTI would do well to allow the ruling coalition the remaining few months to fulfill its promises instead of giving birth to uncertainty by seeking immediate elections.