EDITORIAL: It’s no surprise that the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) chose this time to walk out of the Senate and warn the government that it would cash in its chips if it remained under-represented at the federal level. Everybody knows that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is the weakest that it’s been since it came to power. Its narrative that everything that is wrong is someone else’s fault no longer sells with the public.

Its accountability mantra has been an abject failure and there’s not much time left to do anything about it. And its allies are openly meeting the opposition just as the latter is putting the final touches on its no-confidence offensive. Perfect time for some coalition partners to remind it, then, that they have been taken for granted far too long.

But this isn’t exactly a bolt from the blue for PTI. Surely, it knew that if, or when, the chain that holds the government together came under strain BAP would be the weakest link.

It was made many promises that weren’t kept, after all, which has made its own position very weak with its constituents. And since it must also share the blame for the government’s many failures, especially at a time when not much has been done for Balochistan, there is indeed some weight in the ‘taken for granted’ argument.

All is not well within PTI either, especially since the PM’s certificate ceremony backfired and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi led the charge on behalf of the ministers left out of the top-10.

And now, with the threats of the long marches on the capital and the no-confidence motion looming, there’s not much for the prime minister to choose from.

Letting BAP walk is hardly the best option. It would lose Balochistan, weaken the government in the upper house of parliament, and encourage other allies to do the same because it would give them the impression that their concerns, too, would be similarly dismissed.

Because they definitely have their own issues as well, and they will become known soon enough. But immediately caving in to their demands might also not be the smartest thing to do, not the least because it would open the floodgates to more such demands from other coalition partners.

There’s also the fact that the PM does not like to be blackmailed. He would have preferred it if BAP’s demand was made in a more amicable manner; even if it had already done exactly that many times over the last three-and-a-half years. But, then, he also doesn’t mind taking U-turns at all, even on matters that he felt very strongly about before he became PM.

He’s also said that the ability to reverse course makes for a great leader. And he’s also been known to go back-and-forth on his decisions a number of times, depending on who has his ear at any particular time, before coming to a final decision.

So it’s still basically anybody’s guess which way the ruling party will lean as push comes to shove. It’s sure going to need all the help it can get because if it really comes down to a no-confidence motion, then numbers are going to matter. Sadly, all this also exposes, yet again, how our democratic system often works for things that have nothing to do with the people whatsoever.

They are concerned about high prices and sticky wages and couldn’t care less about which party has how many seats in the cabinet and which bills that makes them vote for. But issues of loyalties and alliances, especially those that can be swayed and/or bought, have gripped the system like a fever at the moment; and not much is expected to change all the way to the next election.

In this context, the BAP revolt could well be the first drop of a heavy rain about to pour down on the ruling party. Therefore, it would do well to settle this matter, and such matters, before such sentiment begins to snowball.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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