PTI’s delicate political edifice and opposition’s moves
PML-N Vice President Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal paid a two-day visit to Karachi on special instructions from party President Shehbaz Sharif, who has been staying in London for the past some months to take care of his elder brother Nawaz Sharif who is facing multiple health problems and needs immediate treatment.
The PML-N leaders met with MQM-P leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and held a separate session with disgruntled veteran Dr Farooq Sattar to discuss the prevailing political situation in the country along with the “poor performance” of the ruling PTI leaders.
Abbasi, who is also a former prime minister, said while talking to reporters that there is a need for fresh free and fair elections as, in his assessment, they are the only way to solving the country’s problems.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also calls for fresh elections, although he thinks the PTI government will not survive after six months.
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman is preparing for another round of anti-government movement to mount pressure for fresh elections at the earliest possible. He claims that he had ended his recent campaign against the PTI government on assurance that the present setup would not be there in January (that passed a couple of months ago). It is not clear as yet who had given the assurance to the JUI-F, although it is being speculated that it had been given by the elements who are powerful enough to give the situation any turn according to their own strategy and requirements.
The Jamaat-i-Islami, which is not part of any anti-government coalition and is pursuing its independent policy, also wants fresh elections, rejecting the idea of any in-house change.
Interestingly, the party has started the process of selecting its candidates for new polls, whenever they are held.
The question is where the country’s political situation is headed? Are fresh elections really a solution, as being claimed by the parties that are out of power?
What if the PTI doesn’t succumb to the pressure?
Apparently, the PML-N’s demand for fresh polls is aimed at forcing the government not to tighten screw on former prime minister Nawaz Sharif by seeking his return from London. He had been allowed eight-week bail by the Islamabad High Court on medical grounds with the provision that the PML-N supremo would have to approach the Punjab government to seek an extension in stay abroad.
At present, the government is in no mood to allow the ex-premier to stay in London anymore. It argues that the health of Mian Nawaz Sharif has improved and it is because of the improvement that he has not been admitted to any hospital in the British capital. To substantiate its argument, it referred to a recent picture of the former premier at a restaurant along with some other party leaders that had gone viral.
The significance of the PML-N leaders Karachi visit and their meeting with the MQM-P leaders is better explained by the current composition of the National Assembly.
According to the ECP statistics, in a house of 372, the PTI and its allies have 176 seats while the opposition has 158 seats.
Of them, PTI has 156 seats, its allies MQM-P seven, PML-Q five, BAP 5, GDA 3, Awami Muslim League one, BNP-M four, JWP one and independents two seats.
(Of the opposition parties the PML-N has 84 seats, PPP 55, JUI-F 15, ANP one. The Jamaat-i-Islami which is neither with the government nor the opposition has only one NA seat.
The minimum seats required for a party to form its government is 172.
This clearly shows that the PTI, despite being supported by allies, has a razor thin majority of four seats.
The ‘edifice’ will come down if only a few ‘bricks’ are moved.
In other words, if, because of any temptation, the MQM-P agrees to say goodbye to the ruling coalition, the setup will come down. If other opposition parties stay united and the MQM-P joins hands with them, an in-house change can also be brought about.
The existing coalition is in place only because the powers that play a role in raising or dismantling power structures are with the PTI.
Before the PML-N leaders’ contacts with the MQM-P, Bilawal had also twice offered a bait to the party. It had offered seats in the Sindh cabinet in case the party parts ways with the PTI.
However, the MQM-P remains unmoved.
There is no possibility of even fresh elections unless the powers that be feel they are unavoidable and are in the national interest.
Important opposition parties are aware of the importance of the “missing link”.