PDM’s misadventure is hurting it now

Mazhar Abbas
Image of The Pakistan Democratic Movement leaders - Image/Twitter
Image of The Pakistan Democratic Movement leaders - Image/Twitter

So what went wrong between March 8 and July 27, which has brought the present coalition government, of nearly a dozen political parties, in a far more difficult position than they were prior to the vote of no confidence?

In the last three months, former prime minister Imran Khan’s popularity is at an all-time high.

It seems that the fears of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) were based on myths rather than reality, when ousting Khan. The myths included an alarm about the former prime minister introducing a presidential form of government or appointing the director general of the intelligence agency, Lt. General Faiz Hameed, as the new army chief.

But that was not the only problem. The PDM, it is now clear, had no plan to bring Pakistan out of its economic mess.

The PML-N, even before the vote of no confidence, was divided about whether to go for fresh election or form government soon after Khan is removed. Those divisions are even more visible today, as the result of the July 17 by-polls is considered a mini-revolt by party’s loyalists and workers.

In the last four months, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government has not been able to overcome the economic challenges. This has helped Imran Khan convince the people that the PDM’s move was simply a power grab and nothing else.

As of now, perhaps the best option for Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and the PDM leadership, would be to pack up and head for early polls, on the pretext that the coalition government has taken the tough and unpopular economic decisions, paid the political price and accepted the people's mandate on July 17.

But the PDM has missed that bus.

Now, with Punjab firmly in Imran Khan’s control, he might not want a fresh election. In fact, he wants major reforms before the general election, such as reversing the amendments to the anti-corruption and the election laws. Khan is also considering a vote of no confidence against the prime minister, for which he will have to review his decision of quitting from the national assembly.

There are reports that some of the government’s allies will be approached by Khan’s party or other quarters. But, even if these options are not materialised, Imran Khan is not looking for early elections anymore.

The PML-N would have been in a much better position today had it conceded the top slot in Punjab to Chaudhry Pervez Elahi after the July 17 electoral loss. But it didn’t. Or maybe it tried but did not succeed.

Not only the PML-N but it now seems that even former president Asif Ali Zardari, who is known for his political astuteness, misread the pitch, when winning over Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain did not pay off on the day of the election for chief minister in Punjab.

Politics, one can say, is always interesting in Pakistan. Imran Khan might have clenched Punjab, but no one can forget that during the three years of PTI's rule Pervez Elahi and his son were not in the good books of the former prime minister. But today, Elahi has been made chief minister with the support of the PTI.

The PML-N stalwarts believe that if party head, Nawaz Sharif, returns in the next one or two months and even goes to prison he along with his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif could put up a good fight against Imran Khan.

If that is really the PML-N’s strategy then it is now or never to implement it.

Mazhar Abbas is a journalist, columnist, and analyst at Geo, The News and Jang. He tweets @MazharAbbasGEO