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EDITORIAL: First, Pervez Khattak and then Noor Alam Khan! If there are these then surely there are more. Of course, what the media often reports as breaking news is what it long knows already, because the nature of the job requires talking to people in positions of power, and this was just another one of those occasions. Yet the fact remains that the previous week marked the first time that one of PTI’s (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s) top men questioned the prime minister in public. And hasn’t that got the ball rolling? It wasn’t the best strategy to try to spin it around as proof of a very democratic political party, because then the PM wouldn’t have complained that Khattak was “blackmailing” him. Noor Alam’s outburst in the house the next day only proved that the PM’s closest advisors and the party’s unelected spokespersons read the situation completely wrong, as usual.

Clearly, it’s no coincidence that the people beginning to warn the PM that all is not well are the ones that go to their constituencies for votes, and those giving him the all-is-still-perfectly-well massage are political nobodies with no skin at all in the game. Because the PM does have a tendency of surrounding himself with technocrats, almost always at the cost of elected democrats, not to mention the party’s original guard, and this particular intra-party discontent is being fuelled by its complete failure to control the country’s economy. So what’s to be made of the situation where party leaders get heat from voters and then get more heat from the PM when they tell him as it is; even get accused of “blackmailing”? Then there’s the mini-budget, and the hike in electricity tariff and fuel price that is not even part of it, which means more inflation and much more heat from constituents down the road.

These are times when the opposition begins to sharpen its knives, especially if it’s played this game for a long time. PML-N will now sell Nawaz Sharif’s prophecy that this government’s incompetence will ultimately make it fall all over itself, as proof that it was right about everything all along. Other opposition parties will sell their own narratives, and there’s really no telling what can happen if more people from within the government also wash the party’s dirty linen in public at the same time. These are very serious concerns which ought to make the PM revise his priority list.

PTI may not be able to get re-elected unless Prime Minister Imran Khan lowers himself to putting his ear to the ground. In such times, such things require admission of failure, which is clearly not political leader’s strongest point. The impression right now is that the PTI is imploding. Remember the Pervez Khattak and Noor Alam Khan outbursts did not happen in isolation, but followed the humiliation in the KP local bodies’ elections — the party’s backyard — which followed successive shocking defeats in successive by-elections.

There is, quite frankly, little chance of inflation coming down or earnings going up in the rest of the electoral cycle, so PTI has no option but to change its strategy. After all, when campaigning begins is also when the effects of the mini-budget will begin to show. And the $1 billion it will get the government will make no difference at all to the lives of common people. If the PM continues to dismiss these things as “blackmailing”, he will only have himself to blame if the kind of people that hopped on to this party before the last election hop off it before the next one.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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