Will PDM be able to achieve its goals?
At its Sunday public meeting in Peshawar, which completed the first round of the opposition alliance’s anti-government rallies in all four provinces, the leaders claimed that January would be the PTI government’s last month in office.
In the earlier meetings, they have been saying that the government would be out of power before the end of 2020.
Nobody, however, thought it necessary to share with the nation the basis of their claim/calculations, or why they ‘extended’ the life of the setup by a month.
Under the Constitution the government can be dislodged either through a no-confidence motion against the prime minister or the premier himself can dissolve the National Assembly on any right or wrong pretext
The president’s power to send the legislature packing through the use of powers under the 8th constitutional amendment had been withdrawn long ago.
The only other option is the ouster of the government through any extra-constitutional means, which no sane person will support.
As of now, the opposition is not in a position to vote out the prime minister, nor is the premier himself thinking of using his powers against the legislature. In fact, Imran Khan has repeatedly claimed that his government will serve out its term.
In other words, this means that neither he will use his power to dissolve the assembly nor he feels any threat from the establishment.
The government functionaries claim that the establishment and the prime minister are on the same page, which implies there is no possibility of any extra-constitutional step against them.
This being so, an important question crops up – what will happen if the opposition could not bring down the government before the Senate elections? Also, how long will the opposition be able to sustain its movement, especially when the temperature is falling by the day and coronavirus is spread fast?
Another question is what will happen if the present setup holds the Senate elections, due in March?
As a result of the upcoming Senate elections, the ruling PTI will get a majority in the upper house because of its numerical strength in the provincial assemblies, the electoral college – a situation that will make it possible for the rulers to have any legislation passed from both houses of parliament. And this is the ‘tragedy’ the opposition parties are trying to avert.
If the PDM wants the assemblies to choose the 50 per cent of the Senate seats that will fall vacant in March, the general elections must be held by the end of February i.e. in next three months.
Under the Constitution, if the general elections are to be held prematurely, the process will take three months to complete, according to Kanwar Dilshad, the former secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan.
He says 60 days will be required to complete the electoral process if polls are held at the end of the constitutional term of the legislature.
This clearly means that the opposition parties have only a few weeks to bring down the government if it wants fresh elections held before the Senate elections.
Will it be possible for the PDM parties to get this done?
This is an important question. It will be a race against time.
As for the opposition’s strategy to bring the government under pressure, the tone of the PDM leaders at the Sunday public meeting was both defiant as well as persuasive.
For example, PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman targeted the establishment for the role it is playing ‘beyond its constitutional limits’.
If you rig the elections, it will not be a crime, but you get annoyed if we complain against it, he said in a taunting way.
He said, “we give you some more time to stop supporting the present (illegitimate) government”.
Critical of the performance of the PTI government on the economic front, he alleged that it had failed to deliver because of which the country was going down every year. He said the economic meltdown posed an existential threat to the country, substantiating his argument by citing the example of the Soviet Union.
He recalled that the Soviet Union was once a great power from the defence point of view but the poor economy led to its disintegration.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari stressed the importance of public say in running the country. He said citizens would decide the fate of the country, not those in Rawalpindi or Aabapara, a reference to the army and the ISI.
Whatever turn the situation has to take will become clear in weeks ahead. However, it was very significant that the PDM public meeting in Peshawar continued even after hearing the news of the death of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and ex-chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, who is also president of the PML-N, an important constituent of the PDM.
Still more important is the commitment to hold the future PDM meetings according to the schedule. The Sharifs are in a better position to comment on whether this is the right decision after the devastating death of their mother?