Future of the long march

Imran Khan has few options

With still at least a week to go before his cavalcade of followers, party workers and senior leaders reaches its final decision, Imran Khan has dragged out his long march towards Islamabad far too long. While the latest update, that of staging a sit-in at Faizabad in the 26th, provides some clarity in an otherwise fluid schedule, it is a clear departure from the original plan to reach Islamabad and pressurize the PDM government to resign. As Faizabad is a main highway, a central artery. Closing it will severely affect traffic, creating unnecessary problems for residents of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Imran Khan, having few options other than street agitation is clearly targeting a TLP-like situation of chaos that would force the establishment to negotiate with him. However, considering his recent backtracking and simmering down on key talking points, it seems those backdoor channel talks may have already begun. His new stance that neither the US nor the establishment were involved in a grand conspiracy against resulting in his ouster indicates that he is fulfilling certain prerequisites before his demands can be considered by the powers that be.

A lot hinges on the appointment of the next army chief and with the announcement set to be made in the next couple of days, Imran Khan has to be very calculated with his timing and who exactly he is negotiating with before a name is finalized. Once the new man is sworn in at the top job he will have officially inherited the political baggage of his predecessor and will expectedly approach the PTI very differently. Imran Khan has said he will turn around with nothing less than an election date, preferably an immediate one. This does not suit the PDM, particularly the PML-N that has to contend with a fledgling economy that is at the mercy of bilateral loans but more importantly the IMF that has demanded the federal government to take some very unpopular inflationary decisions that will hurt politically, especially in an election year. Whichever way one cuts it, the political atmosphere in the country will affect the working class and common man the most, be it bad traffic, high inflation or general uncertainty and resultant anxiety over where the country is headed.

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The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]

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