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EDITORIAL: If the war in Ukraine caused knock-on effects on the stock market, the opposition parties’ protracted plan to move no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan has made a bad situation worse.

The KSE-100 Index tumbled by more than 1,200 points on Monday as the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) President Shehbaz Sharif, PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) leader Asif Ali Zardari and head of PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) Maulana Fazlur Rehman got together at the Zardari’s House in Islamabad along with their senior party members to give final touches to the move.

Their respective legal experts were also on hand to offer advice on relevant constitutional provisions. Finally, on Tuesday a no-confidence resolution was submitted in the National Assembly. Except for the single-point agenda to get rid of the PM the opposition parties have no clear plan of action.

They have failed to decide such important issues as to who is to take over in the event of success, and when to call fresh elections. Nor have they offered any alternative to the present government’s economic and foreign policies, which they decry incessantly.

The opposition leaders are not even sure if they can pull off an upset. Talking to journalists during his stopover in Lahore, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had termed the no-trust move a “difficult task”, adding that he could not guarantee 100 percent success.

Meanwhile, the government’s allies have been playing on both sides of the wicket. As far as one can see they are trying to take advantage of the situation to win more favours from the government, and in case its prospects look bleak to make a deal with the other side.

In fact a few days ago whilst PML-Q leader Pervaiz Elahi was making ambiguous statements to reporters in Lahore about choosing of a side, his son Water Resources Minister Moonis Elahi sat in the PM’s Office offering his party’s assurance of support.

That he sought ‘something’ in return is plain from the fact that Imran Khan assigned Asad Umar with the task of staying in touch with the PML-Q; in other words, he was to ensure their demands were met. Yet on Wednesday the chair-bound party leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain travelled all the way from Lahore to Islamabad to meet the senior Zardari.

And a second-tier leader had no qualms about stating in a TV talk show that the Q League would throw its weight behind the government only if it manages to muster required votes. Also, after Khan visited the MQM headquarters in Karachi, a party spokesman told the media that the two sides had a cordial meeting, and felt it necessary to firmly state that neither the PM asked for support nor was he given such a commitment.

Principled politics demanded that these alliance partners of the ruling party stayed with it through a difficult time, or at least took a clear position either way. To wait and see which way the power balance tilts smacks of only one thing: opportunism.

Earlier, Imran Khan had reached out, by phone, to his estranged friend, Jahangir Tareen, who commands control over a sizeable group of PTI legislators. And on his behalf Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and Defence Minister Pervez Khattak called on another disgruntled PTI leader, Aleem Khan, who is annoyed with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and wants his removal. He has tried to join the Tareen group.

They have yet to disclose their intentions. However, on Wednesday exuding confidence, PM Khan said he is fully prepared for the no-trust move and that it is destined for “definite failure” after which he would “sort out” Zardari, Sharif and the Maulana.

On the other hand, opposition parties claim to have won over several members of the ruling party in exchange for PML-N tickets for the next election.

Any such aspirants might find it a risky business considering that the PPP is gaining some of its lost ground in Punjab, and intends to put up candidate in all, if not majority of the province’s constituencies. That could divide the opposition votes and damage the PML-N candidates’ prospects.

Hence, even if some PTI legislators have promised to go against their leader at a crucial moment they may not deliver on it. In the murky politics of this country, nonetheless, anything can happen. The political uncertainty thus created is affecting the mood of the financial market also casting negative influence on economic decisions in other areas, none of which is in anyone’s interest.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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