Opinion: PDM renews plans to corner Imran Khan

Written By: Shantanu Mukharji
New Delhi Updated: Feb 10, 2021, 07:13 PM(IST)

File photo of Pakistan PM Imran Khan. Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

As per the latest plans, the PDM will organize a long march towards Islamabad. This anti-government alliance with the blessings of former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has also decided that all parties will contest state elections together, rejecting the open ballot method

After a lull of about a month, the Progressive Democratic Movement (PDM), has decided to step up its activities to pin down the Imran Khan government. In furthering its aim, PDM chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, in the presence of Maryam Nawaz of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of Pakistan People's Party (PPP), held a press conference on February 4 in Islamabad. 

As per the latest plans, the PDM will organize a long march towards Islamabad. This anti-government alliance with the blessings of former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has also decided that all parties will contest state elections together, rejecting the open ballot method. This is in complete defiance of the government decision as the proposed constitutional amendment had endorsed for the open ballot system in the Senate Polls. The PDM has also described this march as the Mehngai March (March against inflation). This assumes significance as the electricity, gas and petroleum costs have skyrocketed in Pakistan in the recent past.

Meanwhile, opposition parties in Pakistan continue to be in a non-cooperation mode during the proceedings of the parliament. Also, there is no let up in the cases of corruption in government circles and Prime Minister Imran Khan remains under criticism for heading a corrupt government though his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), had pledged an honest and clean governance during the election campaign of 2018. 

Earlier, political commentators in Pakistan had assessed that PDM had run out of steam and was no longer force to reckon with. However, with the recent renewed plans by the PDM which comprises all the principal opposition parties, Imran Khan is expected to be under mounting pressure. Therefore, March 26 and run up to that date, remains crucial meriting close watch.

In a separate development, Prime Minister Imran Khan was castigated by well known military veteran, Lt Gen (retd) Talat Masood for the prime minister’s generous showering of praise and yearning for the Chinese political system of governance. In a writeup in a popular newspaper, The Express Tribune, dated February 3, 2021, Gen Masood finds PM’s opinion on Chinese governance as worrisome as it needs clarity which needs to be addressed to the general public. 

Coming down heavily on the Pakistani Prime Minister, Gen Masood, charges his PM for being disillusioned with democracy and finds the role of the Opposition and the checks and balances in it frustrating.

The commentator also questions that if left to himself, PM Imran Khan would probably adopt a quasi-Chinese model with a token Opposition and greater freedom of action. Gen Masood, with vast political and military experience finds the Chinese communist system as harsh curbing individual freedom.

No doubt, Chinese leaders including Deng Xiaoping have brought about some elementary changes by partially opening the economy to generate wealth, yet this was at the cost of immense political and religious freedom.

This point is of particular importance in Pakistan and the leadership has to sensitise itself to the aspirations and expectations of the people of the four provinces and give them due representation. Even the mention of a presidential system or a quasi-Chinese model would invite a serious backlash. Pakistani military rulers had all the power at their command, similar to Imran Khan’s dream scenario, yet they failed miserably and left behind legacies the consequences of which Pakistan is still suffering.

The PM should realise as warned by Gen Talat Masood that at times he is setting aside key requirements of democratic governance by bypassing institutions. His reliance on the military may give him the confidence to bypass constitutional and legal obligations but these have a downside of weakening democracy and undermining his own role and that of the cabinet.

Gen Talat Masood further writes that good leadership demands they leave in their wake, legacies that place the country on a stable trajectory and not get embroiled in endless controversies. Their main aim should be to build the edifices of the country and create new ones where necessary. 

For Pakistani leadership, high priority should be placed on strengthening parliament, correcting courses in civil-military relations, building a firm foundation for the economy, and expanding and deepening relations with friendly countries. Pakistan also needs to develop capabilities to deal with challenges like climate change and cybersecurity and maintain a hard focus on improving health and education facilities. 

A country where 44% of the population is illiterate and a very high percentage of children are challenged, and is drowned by the burden of multiple problems, has to seriously rethink its priorities. For it is easier to take out processions but difficult to plan, address its weaknesses and rebuild the country. 

By the observations of this war veteran in China, it can be easily surmised that the Pakistani think-tanks generally are averse to the Chinese system of economy and governance. Prime Minister Imran Khan going overboard to warm up to China, as seen currently, does not seem to have the endorsement of a large section of the Pakistani polity.

In the meantime, the Pakistan National Assembly witnessed an unprecedented and nasty chaos in its session of February 4. Many members engaged in physical scuffles which many say was perhaps the first time in Pakistan’s parliamentary history. 

The Speaker, having failed to control the rowdiness, had to be provided a security ring by his protection team as the atmosphere inside the National Assembly was charged. The opposition staged a walkout registering their protest due to what they alleged the bullish behaviour of the ruling PTI. 

In another significant statement emanating from the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, while addressing at the graduation ceremony at the Pakistan Air Force Academy on Feb 2, called upon India and Pakistan to resolve the longstanding “issue” of Jammu and Kashmir in a dignified and peaceful manner. 

He claimed that Pakistan was a peace-loving country and wanted to co-exist. However, he also said that the Armed Forces of Pakistan are fully capable and prepared to thwart any threat. 

In view of this statement, India being a non-aggressor in all the previous wars with Pakistan might walk an extra mile to reciprocate in the larger interest of peace and tranquil between the two countries. 

Yet, India in likelihood, will wait and weigh about the sincerity of Gen Bajwa’s statement which, on the face of it, has raised “hopes” of a reconciliation.

(Disclaimer: The views of the writer do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. Nor does WION or ZMCL endorse the views of the writer.)

Shantanu Mukharji

Shantanu Mukharji is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst, and a former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius.

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