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regular-article-logo Sunday, 19 May 2024

Looking back

A year of uncertainty in Pakistan

Mehmal Sarfraz Published 29.12.22, 05:12 AM
Disruptions galore

Disruptions galore Sourced by The Telegraph

In 2022, Pakistan has seen the political system take so many somersaults that it is getting hard to keep up. But here is a recap of some of the important incidents that took place this year and shaped the country’s politics and led to further political and economic uncertainty.

Last year, the buzz was about a no-confidence move against Imran Khan. It finally materialised in March, when it was tabled. Imran Khan then spread a fake narrative that there was a foreign conspiracy to oust his government and that the United States of America was behind it. After a lot of delay and efforts to stop the no-trust move, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s deputy-Speaker, Qasim Suri, ‘disallowed’ the vote of no-confidence citing Article 5 of the Constitution. The then prime minister, Imran Khan, advised the president, Arif Alvi, to dissolve the National Assembly. After the dissolution of the National Assembly, the matter was taken up by the Supreme Court, which declared the deputy-Speaker’s ruling to be null and void. Finally, the vote took place in April and after a long day of delay, Imran Khan was unable to secure the votes required to save his government.

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Following the successful vote of no-confidence, Shehbaz Sharif was elected the new prime minister of Pakistan in April with the support of the Pakistan Peoples Party and several others that make up the Pakistan Democratic Movement, which is now the ruling coalition. Ever since Sharif came to power, Pakistani politics has seen many a twist and turn. From political musical chairs in Punjab, the country’s largest province, to by-polls in that province, from an assassination attempt on Imran Khan to the appointment of the new army chief, from the planned dissolution of two provincial assemblies to alleged audio leaks, there is hardly a day that does not see a new political conundrum staring us in the face.

Ever since the PTI’s Usman Buzdar resigned as chief minister of Punjab at the end of March so that the PTI’s ally, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi of the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid), could be the party’s joint chief ministerial candidate, we have seen Hamza Shehbaz, the prime minister’s son, become the chief minister and, later, Elahi becoming chief minister following a court ruling. A Netflix series can be made on the drama that unfolded every time there was an election for the chief minister in Punjab. As if that wasn’t enough, Imran Khan announced that the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies would be dissolved on December 23. In a bid to stop this in Punjab, the Opposition filed a notrust motion against the chief minister, Elahi. The governor also asked the chief minister to take a vote of confidence at a short notice. The governor of Punjab de-notified the chief minister for failing to take the vote of confidence, a matter that expectedly went to the courts, which reinstated Elahi. However, this was done with a caveat — Elahi had to give an undertaking that he will not dissolve the Punjab assembly at least until January 11, when the next hearing is to take place. Because the Punjab assembly cannot be dissolved, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly’s dissolution has also been put on hold. It was reported that Elahi had tried to convince Imran Khan not to dissolve the assemblies till at least March but Khan went ahead and announced that the dissolution would take place on December 23. In the same address where he made this announcement and had the chief ministers of Punjab Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by his side, Khan also criticised the former army chief, General Qamar Bajwa. This resulted in Elahi giving a scathing interview where he said that if anyone from PTI ever criticises Bajwa again, he would be the first to defend the former army chief. Elahi said that General Bajwa was a benefactor of the PTI and that this should not be forgotten. From pre-poll rigging to Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification to cases favouring Khan to convincing friendly countries to give money to Pakistan, there have been many reports in the media charting out the ways in which the former army chief and the previous Establishment paved the way to bring Imran Khan to power in 2018. It must be noted that Elahi’s son, Moonis, had recently revealed that the decision to join PTI after almost a done-deal with the PDM can be attributed to General Bajwa asking the PML(Q) to side with the PTI. For those who are unaware of the context, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the PPP had made a deal with Elahi that he would be their joint candidate for the chief minister’s post in Punjab if the PML-Q joined hands with the PDM against the PTI. It was reported that the deal was sealed. But suddenly, Elahi had joined ranks with the PTI against the PDM. This led to a public rift between Elahi and his cousin, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, something that was unthinkable in Pakistani politics for decades. Now the two Chaudhrys are on different sides — Elahi is with the PTI and Shujaat with the PDM.

Now that the PTI’s nuclear option of dissolving two provincial governments in order to force an early election has been put on hold, many observers say that the election is most likely to be held on time. The PDM government is in no mood to hold early elections given that Pakistan’s economy is facing a crisis. However, there are speculations that there may not be any elections and a caretaker setup would be put in place for longer than the constitutionally mandated three months. This theory is not new. Some political observers have hinted at how there has always been a back-up plan of putting a caretaker technocratic setup in place for a year or more before elections are held. Now there are reports that a decision has been taken to implement this plan.

Whether or not it will materialise cannot be said for sure given the political uncertainty that is hanging over our heads. The year, 2023, will see more, not less, of uncertainty given all the speculations.

Mehmal Sarfraz is a journalist based in Lahore; mehmal.s@gmail.com

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