The Million Dollar Question

The million dollar question everyone is asking is, what the opposition will do next. Other queries arise from the first one, namely, will PDM succee

Will Prime Minister Imran Khan be able to finish his five years tenure? Will this country remain a democracy or is another system being prepped up for replacement? Will a new fix be set in place from within the current assemblies? When I sat down to write this column, these questions tormented me, as they do every Pakistani.

First, what will the opposition do next. Rumors abound, of in-house change, of long marches and of resignations. But what is the change that we bandy about in conversations on our television screens and in newspapers? Does it mean a change of government or a change of system? Only two systems have been tried in Pakistan, dictatorship or controlled democracy.

Are conditions currently ripe for dictatorship, a system we have often tried to our detriment? Three factors will be critical in determining that i.e., international reaction, internal situation and economic conditions. The first is easy to predict if one looks at the world’s reaction to the military coup in Myanmar. Aung Saan Suu Kyi’s controlled government was summarily dismissed but the military is now facing the onslaught of global wrath. USA has placed restrictions on all the main characters involved in the coup while other members of the UN’s Human Rights Council have been asked to place similar bans of their own. Although China shot down the American suggestion, it did remark that the situation in Myanmar was not what it should be. So Myanmar finds itself in the unenviable spot where even China refuses to endorse its military takeover. It also faces internal strife, with people revolting on the streets and doctors, engineers, teachers all going on strikes.

Such a misadventure would not find a welcome in Pakistan either. Civil society is stronger than before, and with the Lawyers Movement still fresh in people’s mind, there is awareness that resistance may be difficult but it is not impossible. Neither can any movement be completely blacked out from the public in the age of social media.

As for the economic conditions of the country, well, who will like his or her name to be tarnished in this financial crisis?

It will not be untoward to say that a change of system, then, is out of the question.

So now we come to in-house change. That too comes with its own set of requirement, three to be precise. If those requirements are met, then the ground is indeed fertile for in-house change to take place.

One of those requirements is that rulers become so weak and unpopular that people form within the party revolt against their leaders. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government does not appear to be at that stage yet. He is still the undisputed leader of his party, without whom the party itself may disintegrate.

So what of the umpire’s mood, unfortunately a vital factor in most third world countries? His whim can indeed create the perfect atmosphere for an in-house change but why would he change his bias? He can become 100% unbiased, giving a free hand to both the government and the opposition to play their game as equals. Again, why would the umpire do that?

So now we come to the only possible path left for the opposition, one that co-chairperson of Pakistan People’s Party, former President Asif Ali Zardari has been eyeing since a while now. This path involves assurances to the umpire, that the opposition can not only match but exceed the cooperation being offered by the current government.

If these assurances are offered by the opposition, and trusted by the umpire, then finally we may have a scenario where powerful circles consider a new arrangement instead of a government fast losing its popularity amidst spiraling inflation and an economy in free fall.

Will these assurances be offered, and will the umpire come to trust those that offer them? That is the million dollar question.

This article first appeared in Daily Dunya in Urdu. 

You may also Like