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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Nawaz’s last tactic for survival – Early elections

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News Analysis |

After consultation with the PML-N leaders Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif at Jati Umra, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will conduct his final meeting on May 22nd [Tuesday] with opposition Leader Khursheed Shah to finalize the name of the interim PM.

After conducting many meetings and denying other opposition parties from their say in nominating the caretaker PM, the PML-N leaders have concluded that proposing a name for the interim premier does not hold much relevance and won’t change the course of things since it is a well-known fact that certain elements will control the premier in the end.

Read more : Nawaz Sharif fears no ‘free and fair’ Elections to be held, blames the CJP

After taking the holistic view of things, the PML-N leadership is not too keen to install its own nominee and there is a possibility that it would either agree to the opposition nominee or ask the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to step in and take the final call.

This is due to the fact that if the government and opposition fail to reach a consensus on the PM’s name then, according to the constitution of Pakistan, the matter will be referred to the ECP which will then decide upon the premier.

Certain lawmakers from the party have hinted that the matter will eventually go to the ECP to decide on the incumbent government.

Wary of the opposition’s antics which could prove to be handy in the coming day, the PML-N does not want to take the chance of facing the embarrassment of losing after nominating their own caretaker government. This is especially due to the fact that the party is already facing a crisis and its chances of winning the upcoming elections have already seriously declined. With this in mind, if the adheres by the PPP nominee, it would at least have a scapegoat if the Shehbaz-led N-league loses.

Last week, the meeting between the two parties remained inconclusive. Opposition leader Khursheed Shah indicated that in the next meeting, to be held on Tuesday, both leaders will reach a consensus on the caretaker PM.

The opposition has vowed to present a non-controversial name for the slot and it is apparent that none of the two want to embroil into any kind of controversy.

If the parties reach a conclusion, the name of the PM will be announced straight away.

The PML-N’s government is going to end its tenure on May 31st, after which the interim set up will have to conduct the elections within three months.

Elections are expected to take place on either end of July or in the first week of August.

Read more : Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister: Who & How?

If the government and opposition fail to reach a consensus, [which Nawaz very much wants to avoid], both the parties will have to make three names public. The National Assembly speaker Ayaz Saddiq will have to form a parliamentary committee which will look into the names and will nominate the premier. In case, if it also fails to reach a consensus, the matter will be referred to the ECP which will then have the constitutional right to select any one of the six proposed names.

Defiant Nawaz wants elections within two months

Nawaz has presented a narrative where, using the slogan of ‘sanctity of vote’, he wants to make a comeback to power, aiming to win the majority in next elections. He is adamant that he was being targeted to be thrown out of politics.

The PML-N leadership does not want to delay the elections.

The politically astute Nawaz knows that the only way to avert the current pressure, intense scrutiny and accountability is to regain power by making amendments in the NAB ordinance and legislating the Parliament to revoke the ousted PM’s disqualification.

If the government succeeds in conducting the elections in a short span of time, after its tenure, its power will not dilute easily and bureaucratic control will remain in place, which is crucial to ensure command in elections. The PML-N does not want to delay this. The current government has taken the points given below in to account in making its decision.

  1. The fear of quick verdict from accountability court
  2. A hope of amending the so-called dictators’ law [NAB ordinance 1999] to diffuse cases against House of Sharif.
  3. Political engineering is at work which can get worse with time.
  4. Government’s suicidal antics which includes adhering by the disqualified Nawaz’s rhetoric rather than Shehbaz’s sellable gimmicks (despite being a party president)
  5. Defectors willing to leave after having seen the tide favoring Imran – using Nawaz’s anti-Army campaign to ditch him for the former.
  6. Dismissal economic performance: had it not been the CPEC and the lull in oil price market, economic numbers would be even more disastrous.
  7. Reserves depleting to $10.8 billion circulate debt, increasing it to more than Rs 1,000 billion and foreign debt to more than $91 billion [with Debt to GDP ratio, roughly more than 70% of GDP).

Under such an environment, Nawaz wants general elections as soon as possible. He is willing to take chance, no matter what it may bring. If elected, he may confront the institutions head on whereas defeat may lead him to jail soon rather than later.