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EDITORIAL: Two days ago, Prime minister Imran Khan said he was hopeful that ‘most’ of his party’s estranged MNAs will return to the fold. Yesterday, he said he was ready to “forgive” all of them if they return to the party. It was also yesterday that the Speaker of National Assembly announced that the house would meet on March 25 to hold vote on no-confidence motion against the prime minister.

Meanwhile, information minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhry announced that seven ‘defectors’ had returned and “we hope that the allies will also decide [in the government favour) in a few days, or 24 hours”. Although endgame promises to be short and quick, and the result should be out soon enough, the likely comeback of disgruntled MNAs in addition to a 78 percent reduction in current account deficit in February 2022 as compared to January 2022 (month-on-month) give this beleaguered government a good reason to be optimistic about its survival and the country’s economy. Perhaps if the prime minister and the ruling party had acted wisely, instead of reacting blindly, as the no-confidence drive gained momentum, PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) might have had a better chance of negotiating this political minefield.

Things are moving very fast, quite understandably, so the most pertinent questions at this point should revolve around how things could unravel in such a manner for PTI. This was the first time in a long time that a ruling party enjoyed such “same page” cooperation with the so-called establishment, after all, and there’s also the fact that few administrations have been blessed with such toothless opposition.

That left it to the ruling party itself to damage its own credentials. And it did that by allowing the economy to rot and refusing to take responsibility for anything at all at any point. First it was the previous administration’s fault, then it was mafia groups, and then it was the international commodity rush. And it made things much worse by implying that living conditions in Pakistan were among the best in the world; insulting the intelligence of the people who were paying the price for believing in the dream of Naya Pakistan.

PTI also lost points as well as credibility when its unrelenting legal onslaught against opposition members, which was supposed to shake billions of dollars of stolen state money out of them and back into the kitty, achieved nothing at all and not a penny was repatriated. If anything, this obsession drew condemnation from all around for use of witch-hunt-like tactics, which even the honourable courts were forced to take note of on certain occasions.

And it didn’t help at all that Imran Khan didn’t really turn out to have the courage of his convictions. Almost all of the tall claims that attracted the country’s struggling, hard-working classes to his cause melted in the face of political convenience; so much so that his government has become known for its characteristic U-turns.

Hubris also seems to have played a part. PTI lawmakers and allies are now deserting PM Imran Khan not just because they’re scrambling to salvage whatever little electoral credibility they can by distancing themselves from the government, but also because he often gave the impression that it was beneath him, for some reason, to directly engage with them while the going was good.

And now, when the opposition has been shrewd enough to exploit the PM’s failings against him and try and force him from office, he seems to be the only one still not willing to read the writing on the wall. For all intents and purposes, the only thing PM Imran Khan can take away from the present situation is a valuable lesson for the future.

Other than that, subverting the constitution, squeezing undemocratic favours out of the speaker, or even threatening a million-man clash on D-Chowk, will make a bad situation worse but such things will not help with the technicalities of the no confidence motion. The prime minister must concede that his D-Chowk decision, not the joint opposition’s no-confidence motion, has thrown the country into turmoil. He must therefore revisit his ‘power show’ plan without any further loss of time. Only then will he be able, albeit possibly, to reverse the general course of events in his favour.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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