Pakistan: Will Imran Khan succeed in his maneuvers?

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 29-12-2022
Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan
Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan


JK Tripathi/

The firebrand founder-leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) Imran khan Niazi has once again proved how fast can he make a volte-face by shifting his stands on the demand of fresh elections. 

In March last, Khan unsuccessfully tried to create a narrative that PML(N) and PPP combine, in collusion with the “Establishment”, had conspired to dethrone his government with the involvement of the USA and tried to cling to his chair by hook or by crook, though he never substantiated this allegation with any proof whatsoever. However, his maneuvers misfired when the Supreme court of Pakistan ruled against him.

News Analysis

His next move was en-masse resignation from the National Assembly but resignations of only 11 of PTI’s 149 MNAs were accepted. Following this, he kept on demanding the immediate dissolution of the current National Assembly followed by fresh elections. When this was also not accepted by the ruling coalition, he announced the “Azadi March” from Lahore to Islamabad as he thought that thus pressurizing the government through the use of his perceived popular support might work. And during the “March”, he was attacked in Wazirabad on his way which his party promptly termed as a conspiracy by PM Shahbaz Sharif, the Home Minister, and the ISI chief to eliminate him.

This much-hyped march was also abandoned near its climax when he realized that the army, which had, through a presser attended by the ISI chief, clarified that there was absolutely no conspiracy and that the army was apolitical, might arrest him for disturbing law and order in the capital.

Now, he threatened to dissolve the two provincial assemblies-Punjab and Khaybar Pakhtunkhwa where the PTI coalition rules. He gave the deadline of December 23 for this. But quite cleverly, the PML(N) members of the Punjab Assembly moved a no-confidence motion against to Chief Minister of Punjab Parvez Elahi of PML(Q) and the Lahore High court ordered Elahi not to dissolve the PA till the next hearing on January 11 Though he has been claiming that he will return Punjab to Imran Khan whenever the latter wishes, Elahi’s words must be taken with a pinch of salt as he is a minor coalition partner and can switch sides as and when it suits his political ambitions. Last month, in a press conference, he opined that the Punjab assembly should continue till March next year while in the same breath he promised to get it dissolved if Khan so desired. 

Article 106 of Pakistan’s constitution empowers the chief Minister of any province to recommend the dissolution of the house and the Governor is bound by this advice provided that no no-confidence motion is pending in the house against the government at the time of tendering of such advice. 

Even if Imran can get the two provincial assemblies dissolved in January next year (he can not do so with the National Assembly), it will not result in any constitutional crisis. Then, is calling fresh general elections a way out of this political crisis? Hypothetically, even if the assemblies and the NA are dissolved, there are many pre-requisites for the next elections which will not allow Imran to achieve his goal. First is that, pending the next elections, all political parties will have to agree on the formation of a caretaker government which will also have to be empowered to take adequate steps to address the economic and security issues in the country. Also they have to gree on who will lead such interim contraption in terms of Article 224 of the Constitution.

This consensus is just impossible given the deep-rooted hatred between the ruling and the opposing coalition. Though the Constitution of Pakistan provides for referral of the matter to the parliamentary committee for decision, it is also unachievable due to the political animosity mentioned above. If everything fails, the Election Commission of Pakistan will have to take that call in terms of Article 224 A. Here again, political parties across the spectrum will have to accept the Election Commission of Pakistan as a neutral body which again seems to be unlikely as Imran has been regularly accusing the election body of being an instrument of the Sharif government.

Not only that. Once the ECP calls for the elections, all political parties must accept not only the existing established rules of conducting the elections by the ECP but also accept the outcome without any reservations. This again is impossible given the stand taken by both sides to further their contentions in past elections. One cannot forget that Imran Khan called the 2013 elections the “biggest fraud” and sat in dharna. Not to be left behind, in 2018 the PML(N) and PPP alleged “wide-scale rigging” during the polls.

ALSO READ: Dr Sarfaraz: social worker who works silently on his mission

Even if all these steps are completed peacefully through a magic wand, it will not be before March next year that the ECP announces the general elections. Given a minimum of two months for preparation and another month for canvassing, elections are not likely to be held before June next year. The term of the current National Assembly expires in October 2024. In such a scenario, will it be prudent to hold the general elections just three months before the scheduled time? The cost of general elections held in 2018 in Pakistan was, according to an article ( July 23, 2018) in The Dawn Newspaper, a whopping Rupees 4,40 billion or US$ 2 billion approximately.

Can a nation, stripped of Forex and suffering from the deep economic crisis, not wait for three more months to fill the ballot boxes during which the economy of the country might show faint signs of revival through the CPR given by IMF and other world bodies/the “all-weather friend”? Imran will also not get any significant political mileage by going to the elections in June. The political landscape may change for him by then. And we must not forget that the Pakistan Army, which still plays a vital role in Pak politics (albeit from the backstage now), may siege the opportunity to come to power again if Imran’s moves further destabilise the political situation in the nation of fast- deteriorating economic situation.

True that it is a battle for political survival for Imran and he is fighting it tooth and nail, but stretching his contention to the breaking point may prove counterproductive for him and harm his political career forever thus leaving the captain permanently “retired hurt”. 

(JK Tripathi is a former Ambassador and a retired Diplomat)