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The political fallout

The opposition parties are making their moves to respond to the situation that emerged after the verdict

The political fallout
Up in arms: Asif Ali Zardari and Imran Khan.

The next three months are crucial for the Sharifs. There is some uncertainty about his future after the Supreme Court of Pakistan directed the prime minister and his two sons to appear before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) which shall conclude its investigation into the Leaks by the first week of July this year.

The opposition political parties: the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in particular, have started piling up pressure on the PM to step down or face protests in coming days. For this purpose, the PTI and PPP have already announced a plan.

PTI Chairman, Imran Khan, claimed that the ‘Go Nawaz Go’ slogan has become an ‘anthem’ for the whole nation. Imran Khan and PPP Co-Chairman, Asif Ali Zardari, have taken different routes but the destination is the same for both, i.e., seeking resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The JI has already joined hands in this movement, which perhaps would gain momentum with every passing day. When all political parties are gearing up for the 2018 general elections, the Panama judgment and energy crisis are challenges for the ruling party in the coming months.

There seems to be no end to this crisis until the proposed JIT completes its investigation of Sharifs’ alleged corruption.

Kamran Rehmat, former newspaper editor and a political analyst, believes the cards are placed delicately at the moment but will fall into place once a full decision is reached.

“The Panama verdict — interim till it’s final, one might add — did throw open the doors for political parties or groups, especially those which are cognizant of their dwindling fortunes, to fancy a grand opposition alliance against the ruling PML-N for a better pie, but true to form, Imran Khan is in no mood to share the prospective spoils of the Panama prize he has relentlessly pursued,” he points out.

Read also: Media set the tone

Rehmat says there may be a method to this madness. “With an eye on the next elections, the PTI appears to be banking on what it believes is public fatigue viz-a-viz the old order. Khan seems to be hedging his bets on a negative eventual decision against the Sharifs in the Panama case, and then, he would fancy going for broke — aiming at the old order as his poll pivot. But if it doesn’t come to pass, strange bedfellows cavorting on a one-point agenda cannot be ruled out regardless of the slogans Zardari and Khan may have been raising against each other recently, but in complete uniformity against the Sharifs,” Rehmat says.

Two leading opposition parties — PTI and PPP — rejected the idea of proposed JIT as they believe that institutions working under the PM cannot do proper investigation against the Sharifs.

Opposition political parties are mobilising their workers for two reasons — hit the iron when it is hot (post Panama’s verdict) and preparation for the next general elections in the provinces from Peshawar to Karachi and from Lahore to Quetta.

“We might have different political designs but our destination is the same,” says Syed Khursheed Shah, leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly.

“The PPP is gaining ground in Punjab and Sindh, as the time is not far away when this country will witness our success story. But it’s true we have seen testing times in the past four years — it is time to move on at now-or-never basis,” he adds.

The PTI is putting more pressure for the JIT investigation by protesting in the Parliament and mobilising the youth and lawyers as well as dozens of Bar Associations across the country.

The PTI created more space for itself soon after office-bearers of lawyers’ association endorsed the opposition’s viewpoint that PM Sharif should step down. “Yes, the Prime Minister should resign until the investigations against the Sharif family are completed,” says Fawad Chaudhry, spokesperson for PTI.

The party also planned ‘Go Nawaz Go’ rallies in all provincial capitals, a move to force the ruling party to deliver. For this purpose, the PTI top leadership accused the ruling party of offering bribe worth tens of billions of rupees. “The ruling party had offered me a hefty sum of Rs10 billion to withdraw from the Panama Papers case,” Imran Khan claimed the other day.

If it is not enough, two leading opposition parties — PTI and PPP — rejected the idea of proposed JIT as they believe that institutions working under the PM cannot do proper investigation against the Sharifs.

About the possibility of Nawaz Sharif’s resignation, Zahid Hussain, senior analyst, says there is no sign Sharif will be giving up in the near future. “The SC has given Prime Minister Sharif a lifeline while indicting him in this case — it may be true that a fractured opposition cannot force the prime minister to quit through mass agitation. But it can still create huge difficulties for the Sharif government,” he maintains.

Many observers believe that opposition political parties may get public support for its anti-government campaign. With this political stand-off prevailing in the country, both parties — PTI and PPP and the government — would have limited options in the coming months but all of them keep an eye on the upcoming elections, rather ignoring mid-term polls.

The role of young politicians, namely Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is also being considered important in country’s politics in the coming months. Responding to the Opposition parties’ future plan, PML-N leadership, though seemed seriously nervous post Panama verdict, claimed that it would clinch victory in the coming elections. “Yes, we face a Herculean task ahead. To end load-shedding is a real challenge for us,” admits Khawaja Mohammad Asif, Minister for Water and Power. But he also makes it clear that they are not worried about the JIT. “Justice must prevail — we are ready to face it all.”

Zahid Gishkori

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