Failure on all fronts bad omen for PTI’s future
As the PTI government is close to completing its third year in power, new crises are emerging every day, raising doubts about its ultimate fate.
Because of the multiplicity and gravity of the crises, it is hard for anyone, including the party bigwigs, to say with certitude whether the setup will fall prey or survive in times ahead.
The biggest challenge to the government comes from Jahangir Khan Tareen, a former secretary-general and sugar baron, who the government thinks made billions out of the artificial shortages and the resultant high price of the sweetener.
The scarcity of the commodity – despite the fact that the government claims it is available everywhere at fixed rates, has made the people cry. They have to stand up in long queues for hours – in the holy month of Ramadan – to get a couple of kilograms of sugar. At some places, there are reports, the buyers are also required to have their thumbs marked with indelible ink so that they don’t return for a second time.
There can’t be a greater humiliation for the people of an agricultural country to get a few kilos of sugar like this.
These queues are reminiscent of the situation in the 70s’ when ghee, sugar were available only at the special depots – in limited quantities. In black market the prices at that time too were simply unaffordable.
While people are cursing the incumbent government for this situation, what is happening in the ruling PTI is equally alarming. More and more legislators in the National and Punjab assemblies are throwing their weight behind JKT, a development that doesn’t bode well for the government. According to latest reports some three dozen legislators have signed a document seeking justice for JKT.
Faisalabad’s Raja Riaz told media that the group was “for the last time” seeking justice for JKT. Thereafter, he said, the future course of action would be made public.
On Saturday, even senior leader Ishaq Khan Khakwani expressed support for JKT, a saddening development from the PTI’s point of view.
There are reports that some federal ministers are trying to persuade the prime minister to spare time to meet JKT. However, it is not easy even to speculate whether the cricketer-turned-politician will agree to the idea and whether the ice will ultimately melt.
Similarly, the front that the government has opened against the Sharifs by revoking the allotment of their lands at Jati Umra has further heightened tensions between the PML-N and the PTI. The PML-N leaders feel infuriated to an extent that a former law minister Rana Sanaullah Khan has threatened even the Punjab chief secretary and the Lahore commissioner of serious consequences along with their families if they acted as tools of the PTI.
After the threat, federal minister for information Fawad Chaudhry said he would get a case registered under terrorism laws against the Faisalabad leader.
Undeterred, Rana Sana said that the minister should himself become a complainant, his anger and body language clearly indicating that there are some factors that have made the PML-N leaders fearless.
The resignations tendered by three aides to the KP chief minister is another development that indicates that the situation is not good within the ruling PTI.
The timing of the federal cabinet’s shuffle also appears ill-advised. Hammad Azhar’s replacement with a new finance minister (PPP era’s Shaukat Tareen) only 18 days after the former Punjab governor’s son’s aggrandizement will certainly be hurtful for the young leader. He, without doubt, will feel humiliated – much more than he felt jubilant on his promotion from the minister of state.
(Hammad Azhar had replaced Dr Hafeez Shaikh as the latter had lost the Senate election from the general seat of the federal capital, after which the court had held that being un-elected the bespectacled leader from Sindh could not hold the cabinet slot).
The initiation of backdoor talks with enemy India when there is no shift in the latter stance on Kashmir will also go against the PTI and its government. Interaction between the two countries has been going on for the past some months with the mediation of the UAE, but the news was broken by a foreign news agency, not the PTI government.
Needless to point out that the accountability process also did not yield the desired results during the past 32 months. PML-N leaders like Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza have been in the NAB custody for long but, so far, nothing has been proven against them. Hamza, who is also leader of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly, proudly claims this in his interactions with the media.
The NAB’s failure to prove allegations against the Sharifs will damage the PTI politically and pulverize its credibility. The PML-N leaders will project it as their victory in the next elections and the PTI will have to pay the price.