THE Jan 31 ‘deadline’ set for the resignation of the prime minister by the Pakistan Democratic Movement has come and gone, and the PTI government seems more optimistic than ever. Recent meetings between Prime Minister Imran Khan, Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and DG ISI Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, the fourth in just 40 days on Monday, have strengthened the sense of bureaucratic unity and, hence, smooth sailing for the present dispensation.
In the other hand, although not exactly leaking, the PDM’s vessel seems to be quite rudderless and adrift. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari tweeted: “The chosen PM failed to resign to this illegitimate regime by the deadline set by the PDM and missed the opportunity to step aside in a respectable way….” He added that at the PDM meeting reportedly scheduled for tomorrow in Islamabad, a long march proposal and no-confidence motion will “hopefully” be addressed.
The PDM campaign was supposed to have been snowballing towards the necessary ‘denouement’ at this stage. The PTI government was rattled by its fire and brimstone rollout in September, but then it made a series of miscalculations. And Islamabad dug in its heels, banking on the divergent political dynamics and agendas of the PDM allies to undermine the initial solidarity of the coalition. It has proved so. In December, the first real signs of cracks under the façade is the question of the national and regional assemblies’ mass resignations and whether to do so before or after the Senate elections.
The change was never as politically important for the PML-N and the JUI-F as for the PPP that governs Sindh and whose stakes are also far higher. The consequence is that the position of the PPP is somewhat different from what it was previously; it recently came up with a plan to put the prime minister to a vote of no confidence. The PML-N finds the proposal too dangerous, having been burnt by their inability to oust Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani by a no-confidence motion in July 2019.
The misunderstanding has helped the PTI government to paint the PDM as a spent force that, because of its inherent inconsistencies, pledged too much and failed to deliver. The coalition, which began with the MPC paper laying out expectations, priorities and sequencing of events, definitely stopped short of figuring out the ‘how’ to produce concrete results. They even misread, fundamentally, the relationship between the state and the PTI. The Dominicans did not collapse the way the PDM rulers believed they would.
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Nevertheless, even though it indicates a discernible lack of vigour, it would be unfair to write off the coalition. The unified opposition is still solid, and its Achilles heel remains the misgovernance of the PTI in numerous sectors. In a couple of weeks, the results of the Senate polls could give a better indicator of whether the PDM will stay together to fight for another day.