The rulings from the ECP have finally laid to rest the seven-year witch hunt on the foreign funding case against PTI, with another attempt of the establishment attempting to wipe Imran Khan from the political circuit failing. At this point, Imran Khan should not rush into elections but rather capitalize on the siege of the Federal Capital, the last bastion of the PML-N in the country.
Khan’s push for early elections is understandable, with the economy’s free fall showing no end. The devastation caused by the American-sponsored Government of Shehbaz Sharif has led to the Pakistani Rupee depreciating 78% after Khan’s ousting through a Parliamentary coup on the 10th of April. However, rushing to take the mantle of leadership needs to be assessed, especially regarding the timing of the elections. The PML-N will use every trick in the political book to extend their rule till October 2023 and, in doing so, will further devastate the economy through unfair IMF loans and possibly privatising critical sectors of Pakistan’s economy.
Understanding the matter better
Imran Khan has tried through the rule of Law and street protests to make the status quo accountable for the treasonous acts of corruption in the past 40 years, which has brought the country to its knees. But there is an element within the Pakistani mindset that is forgiving, forgetting and then re-electing the same despots repeatedly, either based on ethnicity or linguistic reasons, but never on policy; hence why a long-term strategy needs to be devised where PML-N can be wiped off (metaphorically speaking) without firing a single shot.
In the dying days of General Musharaff’s regime, the yearning to return to Democratic rule had reached a fever pitch with the Peoples Party in the driving seat of a campaign buoyed by the death of Benazir. Within 18 months of Musharraf leaving, the fever for Democracy within the country had subsided, with the public calling for General Kayani to intervene and oust the incumbent Government. Reasons attributed were a disastrous economic policy which halved economic growth from 6-8 percent to barely touching 4 percent, not to mention the unblinding corruption.
For all of General Kayani’s failings in combating Terrorism in the Tribal Areas, his ability to restrain the urge to mount another coup and let ‘Democracy’ run its course is applaudable. Letting Zardari’s Government run its course allowed the Peoples Party to cannibalize itself through its rampant corruption, essentially minus-ing itself from being considered on a Federal level. It will be ten years since the Pakistan Peoples Party’s rule ended in 2013. Despite the upheaval in Parliament and rebranding under Bilawal, the Party is barely a shoo-in, with Sindh being its only political front and money its only drawcard to entice politicians who sway with the wind.
Khan must simmer the pot without letting tensions boil over into a full-blown confrontation between the political workers of PTI and the PDM. Keeping up the pressure through protests and feeding off public sentiment regarding inflation and depreciation of the Rupee is more than enough to drive the point of bad governance and economic mismanagement.
The way forward
The two metrics should be enough to rile up public sentiment as these two aspects directly affect every individual in the country and hence if weaponized correctly, can be more meaningful than flouting corruption cases and attempting to make the public understand the moral dilemma of having such people in power. Imran Khan must pursue the goal of leaving sentiments of resentment in the minds of the masses and remind them time and time again of this period of governance. It is only through repetition that the public will conclude that Shahbaz and co are not fit to run the country.
The genius of Kayani is something Imran Khan should seek to replicate, keeping the long-term view of making PML-N irrelevant, just like the PPP, because of its own doing. After all, as witnessed during Khan’s tenure, the FIA, NAB, and the Supreme Court could not dent the resolve of Zardari and Nawaz. With sheer confidence, they bought and rounded up the loosely bound coalition of PTI and successfully evicted a Democratically elected ruler with the blessing of Washington.
The only variable in this equation that needs assessment is whether Khan can bear to see the economic burden on the ordinary Pakistani and whether Pakistan can sustain itself under these precarious financial circumstances. The conditions are right for Imran Khan to lay siege on Islamabad, still, the duration between now and the elections in 2023 seems a distant dystopian nightmare, and only time will tell whether we reach there or whether Shahbaz Sharif falls on his sword.
Sameed Basha is a defense and political analyst with a master’s degree in international relations from Deakin University, Australia. He specializes in Asia-Pacific regional dynamics and conflict & security studies. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.