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Disaffection by allies, electoral reforms: Stiff opposition leaves beleaguered PM with 3 options

  • The eleventh hour postponement of the joint session of Parliament to legislate electoral reforms, fearing lack of numerical numbers, was, analysts argue, a wake-up call for the PM
Updated 14 Nov, 2021

ISLAMABAD: With public expression of disaffection by coalition partners against Prime Minister Imran Khan's persistent failure to take them on board, opposition to his electoral reforms voiced not only by those parliamentarians who joined Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the run-up to 2018 elections and subsequently but also reportedly by PTI veterans including Pervez Khattak, has left the beleaguered PM with a few options.

Background discussions with parliamentarians from coalition partners as well as opposition indicate that PM is left with three possible options.

First, appeasement with the establishment - a proposal that a few who know Imran Khan well are willing to consider, while those drawing lessons from history argue that once trust deficit has surfaced it has never been entirely diffused; Business Recorder asked a source in PM's cabinet, who requesting anonymity, said, "Khan is resolute that he would fight it out till the end and not quit."

Another insider remarked "consultation, not confrontation, is the only way out. We have to mend fences with establishment, opposition and state institutions like superior judiciary and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Otherwise, the writing on the wall is clear."

Second, he may launch his vitriol against those he feels have pushed him into a corner though naming and shaming has never worked in this country. Third, call fresh general elections wherein he may be able to play the 'political martyr' card though constitutionalists warn that he must play it before a vote of no confidence is moved.

Electoral reforms: Allies put their weight behind PM

However, another PTI lawmaker, requesting not to be named, said, going for fresh elections or dissolving assemblies would give the impression that PM could not face the looming challenges and bowed down to pressure."It's unlike Khan to quit like that. If he does that, this would be a huge embarrassment for all of us. This is something PM would never want to happen."

After the director general (DG) Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) notification controversy, reports have surfaced that PM and security establishment are no longer on the 'same page' - a page that had allowed the PM to pass whatever laws he deemed appropriate including laws pertaining to Financial Action Task Force (FATF) with ease, to appoint Sadiq Sanjrani as Senate Chairman when the PTI was in minority in the Senate, and the PM's vote of confidence in March 2021.

The eleventh hour postponement of the joint session of Parliament to legislate electoral reforms, fearing lack of numerical numbers, was, analysts argue, a wake-up call for the PM: that he heads a minority government cobbled together by coalition partners who are reliable only as long as the adhesive retains its hold.

Speaking to Business Recorder, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) Secretary-General Senator Kamil Ali Agha said the PML-Q has been conveying its reservations to the PM for the last three years.

"Whenever the government faced any crisis, we fully stood by it and faced the crisis. But, we have reservations that have not been addressed," he said.

To a query, he said, the PML-Q has been facing problems due to the performance of the government, Punjab in particular.

"We have to keep in mind the fact that we, as elected representatives, are answerable to the people. When the grievances of our constituents are not addressed, it adversely affects us. Our credibility is at stake. People criticise us for not honouring the promises made to them regarding development, good governance and all that. We have genuine reservations. We are not consulted over important issues relating to legislation and governance," he said.

Agha said PML-Q would review the entire situation in its Parliamentary Party meeting today (Sunday). Convener Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui also said his party conveyed the problems of the masses several times to the PM.

"We were never briefed on issues like Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). We have serious reservations about EVMs," he said, adding that MQM-P would hold internal consultations regarding political situation in the country.

Govt all set to pass 2 key electoral ‘reform’ bills

Senior Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) leader Rana Sanaullah said the PML-N would welcome any coalition partner that joins hands with it against the government. "People are crying due to miseries they are facing. Unprecedented inflation has pushed them to the wall.

The days of these rulers are numbered," he said, adding that Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) would formulate a decisive strategy against the government in its November 15 meeting.

A steering committee of parliamentary opposition will also hold a meeting today (Sunday), he said adding that the meeting would map out a strategy to give a tough time to the government in Parliament.

In 342-seat National Assembly, ruling coalition has a thin majority of 178 seats against the minimum required number of 172 seats to attain simple majority. If MQM-P with seven and PML-Q with five seats part ways, the government would lose 12 seats and fall short of six seats to attain simple majority.

In, Punjab, however, things are different with MQM-P having no seat and PML-Q having 10 seats. The strength of ruling coalition in Punjab is 196 seats with PTI's 182 seats, PML-Q's 10 seats and four independents.

If PML-Q part ways with PTI, ruling coalition will have 186 seats, the exact number required to maintain majority in 371-seat Punjab Assembly. But, if any more member leaves ruling coalition, the PTI would lose its government in Pakistan's largest province.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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