Back to square one

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s suggestion that Prime Minister Imran Khan should be unseated through a no-confidence motion in the National Assembly has taken the wind out of the opposition alliance and effectively sounded the death knell of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). So all the pressure, protests and jalsas were for nothing as the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is clearly in no mood to play along anymore in the grand scheme to march on the capital and force the prime minister to resign. Normally opposition parties would be expected to make such proposals in private, and they did meet recently yet nothing quite like this reached the press, but for one of them to talk like this in public only confirms the doubts that people had about PDM for a while now.

The tide began to turn with the Lahore jalsa, where Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President disappointed all allies by not being able to mobilise masses quite like they expected. And, rather ironically, all this has left JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman – someone who has no stake in the system yet he’s most affected by this breakdown – suddenly with nowhere to turn to. Now PDM needs a new game plan but it’s not immediately clear just what it can do to maintain the alliance and build more pressure on the government.

It doesn’t seem as if PML-N would want to have any part in any no-confidence motion since it got its fingers burnt trying to unseat the Senate chairman in August 2019 in the same way. So now the PDM pendulum is left hanging between two extremes. One, the long march on Islamabad, is apparently not a very convincing option for PPP. And the other, the no-confidence motion against the PM, doesn’t really grab PML-N’s interest. Even Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who was able to defy odds and not only stitch PDM together but also get it moving, would be hard pressed to find a middle path that everybody can agree on. And because things have been going downhill for the opposition alliance since the Lahore disappointment, Nawaz Sharif would surely have given the axe to who was responsible if it didn’t happen to be his own daughter. Yet, truth be told, all the failure at Lahore really did was just hasten the inevitable. For PDM could never really pack the kind of punch that would have been needed to unseat an elected government, especially one that enjoys the backing of all important institutions of the state. *

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