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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Imran Khan’s PTI ends its boycott of Parliament, but why?

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Tuesday had announced PTI’s decision to attend the session of parliament on Wednesday, ending a boycott that had started in October, when the party was gearing to launch a campaign against PM Nawaz Sharif on the issue of Panama corruption.

Imran ends Parliament boycott, will attend session on Wednesday, Dawn

However today while PTI leadership appeared in the parliament, lead by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Khan himself was not seen till evening. Sources claimed that he was busy giving tv interviews at his hill top residence at Bani Gala. Qureshi, Pakistan’s ex-foreign minister and generally understood to be the party’s point man for “political conciliation” also met the leader of the opposition, PPP’s Khurshid Shah and Ex-Finance Minister Naveed Qamar. Imran Khan had said yesterday that the purpose to end the boycott is to table two resolutions in the parliament, perhaps to censor the parliament, but there is as yet no clarity what those resolutions will look like.

Imran Khan had said, in October, that his party members would not attend any sessions of parliament until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigned or presented himself for accountability as per the opposition’s proposed terms of reference (ToR) for investigation into the Panamagate scandal.

As part of the boycott, PTI had also boycotted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s address to the joint session of parliament, for which it was much criticized.

PTI sources claim that the muscular approach towards throwing full weight inside the supreme court was lead by Jehangir Khan Tareen. Tareen whole heartedly and feverishly worked on presenting PTI’s case along with the legal team and believed that such is the power of their arguments and weight of collected evidence that the court will be persuaded to give some decision. But now since, from Dec 9th, the supreme court has abruptly taken a back seat, with an uncertain future of the case, the leadership has once again passed on to the experienced old sweet tongued, Multani politician, Shah Mehmood. Shah had previously struggled between April and September to forge an all party alliance against Nawaz Sharif on the issues of Panama corruption and the proposed parliamentary bill, which Bilawal Bhutto now endlessly refers to was the outcome of his efforts.

However what kind of cooperation can now develop between PPP and PTI has yet to be seen. PTI politicians point out that PPP’s much talked about parliamentary bill, even if accepted, can only result in creating an Inquiry Commission, such a commission will have to present its findings to the supreme court. But if Supreme Court gives a clean chit to the Nawaz family in January 2017, then the very logic of an “Inquiry Commission” as proposed in opposition’s Terms of Reference (TORs) will be lost. Nevertheless, PTI’s Qureshi had earlier said that PTI will support if PPP launches a movement against Nawaz government after Dec, 27th.

PTI to back PPP’s move: Qureshi, Lahore, The News

But will PPP be really launching any moment?

Bilawal Bhutto has been continuoulsy repeating his ultimatum, to Nawaz Sharif, to accept his 4-Point Agenda and failing which he warns that PPP will launch a movement against the PM Nawaz after Dec 27th.

Panama Leaks Case litmus test for country, Bilawal, Dawn

Most political analysts don’t see much danger for PM Nawaz in “Bilawal’s 4-Demands” (creation of parliamentary committee on National Security; implementation of resolution on CPEC, acceptance of opposition’s TOR’s – in the form of PPP’s bill- on Panama Inquiry Commission and the immediate appointment of a foreign minister). These analysts argue that to grant a political victory to Bilawal Bhutto and to keep PPP and PTI separate from each other, PM Nawaz can easily accept 2-3 of Bilawal’s demands.

Bilawal warns Nawaz of dire consequence if “four demands” not met, Global Village Space

Sources in PTI also believe that PM Nawaz had discussions with Ex-President, Asif Ali Zardari, before the appointment of new Army Chief. And the reshuffle of the top army brass since then has convinced them that an attempt is being made to address PPP’s concerns in Karachi. They site the fact that with Corps. Commander Karachi, Gen. Naveed Mukhtar, moving to head Pakistan’s premier Intelligence Agency, ISI, and DG Rangers, Gen. Bilal Akbar, becoming Chief of General Staff (CGS) suddenly army’s top leadership in Karachi will be starting without a first hand understanding of issues.

It was commonly expected that the current DG ISI, Gen. Rizwan Akhtar, who had initiated and spearheaded the Ranger’s operation clean up in Karachi and later fully supported it from intelligence headquarters will be sent as Corps Commander Karachi to provide continuity and maintain institutional memory but the way he has been summarily packed off to National Defense University (NDU) is raising concerns inside PTI that there is now a meeting of minds between PM Nawaz and Asif Ali Zardari on the political direction in Karachi – and may be on foreign policy vis-a-vis India.

Back in Saddle, Zahid Hussain, The Dawn

Given these impressions, its hard to see what kind of consensus or cooperation can emerge between PPP and PTI on the issue of Panama. Also if these impressions are true then Bilawal’s threats of launching a movement, against the Nawaz government will probably end in some sort of publicly declared concessions from the government to pacify PPP. Such a rapprochement between PPP and PMLN, can serve to empower PPP and restore its centrality as ‘main opposition’ instead of PTI that looks cornered in the wake of new changes.

So PTI is coming to parliament to explore its options at a time of great uncertainty. There are hints of public demonstrations in near future as well. Most PTI leadership is very disappointed on the abrupt manner in which supreme court suspended its hearings into the “Panama Leaks Case” and they are not sure if new Chief Justice, Honorable Saqib Nisar, in January, will only add one judge to the panel of remaining four to make up for the departure of Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali or will reshuffle the whole panel. Also, if bench is mostly changed then what will happen to the evidences and arguments presented so far since Nov, 1st. PTI and its chairman have obviously much to worry about.