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Status quo parties join hands to thwart Khan’s reform agenda


News Analysis |

The embattling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan People’s Party have joined hands to thwart the ruling Pakistan Tehrek-e-Insaf in the October 14 by-polls. The senior leaders of both parties participated in the meeting at the parliamentarian lodges and discussed the strategy for fielding the joint candidates in the elections.

In the National assembly, on Wednesday opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif took potshots at the incumbent government and ensured that PPP and PML-N cannot be divided yet again. PPP Secretary-General Nayyar Hussain Bukhari said that both groups [PML-N and PPP] met after the approval from the senior leadership.

Former opposition leader Khurshid Shah met with PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, prior to the delegation meetings at the parliamentary lodges.

His party is also consulting the other parties to consolidate its position against the government, he added. Speaking with the media after the meeting, PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the PML-N would support his party [PPP] in the forthcoming by-election in Karachi and Rahim Yar Khan, while in Punjab, it would return the favor to PML-N.

PML-N’s stalwart and outspoken leader Rana Sanaullah has also confirmed the development that both the parties have agreed to support each other in the October-14 by-polls. Former opposition leader Khurshid Shah met with PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, prior to the delegation meetings at the parliamentary lodges.

Read more: Grand opposition alliance ready to thwart PTI’s government in-waiting

Later, Shahbaz met Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman to seek his party’s support. On September 23, PML-N’s Supreme Leader Nawaz Sharif had extended an olive branch towards the PPP Chairman Asif Ali Zardari to strengthen the Grand Opposition Alliance against the incumbent government.

A delegation headed by Raja Zafarul Haq had met PPP secretary general Nayyar Bukhari at his residence and conveyed the Nawaz’s message. Subsequently, both parties continued their backdoor meetings in this regard to reach a consensus. Earlier, Maulana Fazl was unable to bring the opposition parties on the same page.

PM Khan has promised to empower institutions and his reform agenda is threatening the survival of the status quo parties.

Opposition remained divided in prime ministerial and presidential elections. In spite of numerous meetings and the formation of so-called Grand Alliance of 11-opposition parties, a rift emerged between the PML-N and PPP on previous verbal abuse of each other’s party leadership.

Zardari’s visit after the death of Begum Kalsoom Nawaz may have melted the ice and open a door for a political engagement. After the elections, PPP gave an impression as it was trying to identify itself with the public after losing Punjab. However, a decision to support PML-N would again put PPP on the back foot.

Read more: PM Imran looks to bring sweeping reforms at local government level

It gives credence to PM Imran Khan’s rhetoric that PPP and PML-N have an unholy alliance. The status-quo parties signed the “chartered of democracy” and pursued the common agenda for civilian supremacy. But, their paths diverged in the run-up to the July 25 elections, PML-N leaders accused the PPP of understating with the military establishment—which PPP vehemently denied.

Fast-forward, PML-N is looking to defeat PTI in upcoming by-polls and the way PTI’s Fawad Chaudhary inflicted humiliation on PPP’s and PML-N’s senior leadership for alleged nepotism and corruption, both the opposition parties are miffed at ruling party for the derogatory and immoral behavior.

The status quo parties would try to befool the shortsighted public. Unless PTI does not win in by-polls, the joint opposition would remain a threat; however, military’s backing may give Khan’s government a confidence to rule with more vigor and confidence. 

Meanwhile, the corruption proceedings against the PML-N’s and PPP’s leadership are continuing at increasing pace. The common agenda of the crooked status-quo elements is to counter PM Khan’s anti-corruption drive.

PM Khan has promised to empower institutions and his reform agenda is threatening the survival of the status quo parties. The results of the October-14 by-elections can potentially have a major impact on the political landscape, especially in the context of PTI’s ambitions to consolidate its power in the center.

Read more: PML-N attacks PTI’s 100-day agenda

In a bid to give PTI tough time in the upcoming by-polls, the two status quo parties are aiming to defeat PTI to bridge the gap on PTI’s simple majority. PTI’s fragile government is dependent on coalition partners like MQM and BNP which can always backfire. MQM-P continues to face existential crises and the hostilities and animosity of this controversial alliance are no hidden secrets.

If PTI wins the majority of the seats in by-polls, it may reach a commanding position to implement the promised reforms agenda without compromising under pressure from allies. The opposition is fearful of Imran’s direct approach. PTI’s government may have gained strength after the full-military backing for the democratically elected government, but the party remains in a difficult position unless it wins big in the by-polls to gain more seats to rule with comfort for five-years.

Read more: A time for hope

It is understandable that PTI looks to cement its position in power corridors at the center. But, defeated parties can certainly make a comeback after some early unpopular measures from Khan’s government. The status quo parties would try to befool the shortsighted public. Unless PTI does not win in by-polls, the joint opposition would remain a threat; however, military’s backing may give Khan’s government a confidence to rule with more vigor and confidence.

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