Fortune favors the brave. And the pandemic, which has humbled the brawny and the brainy alike, apparently favors the incumbent, even incompetent ones. Evidence is patchy, but consider: Donald Trump has been defeated, but he actually got nearly 11 million “more” votes than 2016, especially in areas that were among hardest hit by Covid-19. This has led him to pretend as if he was cruising to victory and the presidency was stolen from him. Another run is on the cards for 2024 – an astonishingly close election is keeping Trump in the long game.
Here at home, despite a lackadaisical early coronavirus response that had to be sorted out by powers that be, PM Khan doesn't seem to face a serious challenge to his seat in the government. A fresh, second wave of Covid-19 is here, but there is even less urgency to act despite rising case counts. Perhaps, it is as much about folks getting used to the pandemic way of life as it is about a lack of great expectation from the eloquent PM. Who knew being a premier would bestow such a splendid sinecure!
One cannot underestimate the awakening of political opposition under the PDM banner. But it has come a bit late. It’s also a bit too close to the Senate elections, which the challengers hope to reach with a stronger hand. It is also unclear if Covid-19 will allow PDM to stage large rallies. It will be ironic if the PDM threat nudged Khan to publicly take the virus seriously this time around. If that happened and it resulted in saving precious lives and protecting the nation’s respiratory tracts, then it will be job well done, everyone!
In any case, the PDM’s political demands, which are derived from desired incentives, are not aligned among the three major parties of PML-N, PPP and JUI-F. Astute political observers rightly point out that while PML-N feels an urgency to rock the boat by demanding fresh elections, the PPP is more interested in preserving its existing privileges in Sindh. Seeing how the pathway to “change” is getting narrower, the JUI-F, the muscle of the movement, may also cut a deal to get a piece of the pie.
In the latest development, there is not much that can be read into the “victory” in GB elections, for the mandate is narrow, it follows a historical trend favoring the ruling party in Islamabad, and the GB results don’t have much bearing on the political dynamics of rest of Pakistan. However, it is a net positive for PTI, in that it injects an image of relative political strength at a time when weakness could snowball. The rather early winding up of the latest Faizabad dharna, in a tense situation, also projects an aura of authority.
Come New Year, it will likely be curtains for any movement to dislodge the regime, until at least 2023. By Spring, the Senate elections will be done, providing the ruling party’s decisive legislative power. That should usher in some political stability and create room for reforms. And with Covid-19 also likely weakened around that time, economic revival can then take a front seat. Realistically, the PDM politicos have until December to make a major move on political chessboard. Can they force something?