What goes around… | The News

The following mention appeared in The News on April 24, 2022 at the following link


It seems that for Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, recently ousted from federal government, the going is likely to get tougher in the coming months. The party’s top leadership is set for a bumpy ride in its pursuit of political glory in the next general elections. Imran Khan, the former premier, has weaponised its rhetoric against state institutions ranging from the judiciary to the armed forces on social media platforms. Many experts say, however, that the party is likely to see diminishing political dividends in the campaign over the coming weeks and months. The PTI faces numerous challenges ranging from mobilising the masses; pursuing its contentious narrative of a foreign conspiracy against its recently ousted government; facing possible corruption inquiries; foreign funding; resignations from assemblies; its past years’ performance; and coming up with a new plan to entice the public. The foremost challenge for the PTI lies in convincing the people that there was a foreign conspiracy to oust Imran Khan from power. From the looks of it, the challenge is huge. Some analysts say the objective is unachievable. They believe that the anti-American narrative is not new and might not work in electoral politics. While it may appeal to some segments, particularly staunch supporters of the party, it might not convince the general public so as to secure a sweeping majority in the upcoming general elections. Party supporters also expect party leaders to come up with a well-thought plan to better execute their promises compared to their performance following the 2018 elections, where the party failed to deliver on many fronts. Experts believe that the current regime under the leadership of Shahbaz Sharif may launch inquiries and investigations against political opponents, particularly the PTI. These inquiries could be initiated by the National Accountability Bureau, the Anti-Corruption Establishment or even the Federal Investigation Agency in a manner similar to the way the PTI regime had initiated an accountability and anti-corruption drive, where more than 250 MPs faced corruption inquiries. This would be a huge challenge for Imran Khan to face. The PTI government’s accountability drive failed to secure convictions against the 100 high profile individuals, according to information available with this scribe. The PTI government spent over Rs 2 billion on these cases but failed to recover a single penny from the accused in the past four years. “The key challenge for PTI as an opposition party will be to maintain the level of relevance that allows it to remain a realistic contender for power in the next elections,” says journalist Fahd Hussain. While the party is displaying its street power, it may struggle to retain the momentum of public rallies over an extended period of time, he adds. He is of the view that the PTI’s top leadership may also face desertions by electables who had joined the party prior to the 2018 elections, from the Punjab. “And, lastly, its resignations from the National Assembly mean that it may have little input in key decisions and appointments. That may further weaken its footing in the system,” he says. As many as 49 lawmakers of the PTI are facing inquiries by the NAB. These include Imran Khan, the party supremo, former Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar, former KP chief minister and defence minister Pervez Khattak. The recent controversy surrounding the Toshakhana gifts is also making headline every day. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has ordered two inquiries including one to probe the delay in the Islamabad Metro Project. Some analysts say that the trend is reminiscent of the ’90s politics when political rivals, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, started corruption cases against each other. The PTI used the accountability narrative against its political opponents, especially against the PML-N and the PPP during its tenure. Now that it is in the opposition, dealing with the corruption narrative against it appears to be a challenge for the party. Journalist Nasim Zehra says there are many questions related to consistency in Imran Khan’s political stance and narrative on many issues. Imran Khan has a visible support base in urban Pakistan and among overseas Pakistanis, she says adding that in the given circumstances “Imran Khan might announce a sit-in protest.” Countering the aggressive and apparently effective narrative of Imran Khan by developing a counter narrative and effectively communicating it to the public will be key for the current government, says Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, president of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT). Commenting on PTI’s foreign funding case, he says, this important matter will conclude very soon at the Election Commission of Pakistan. “If foreign funding claims are found to hold against the PTI, making a declaration and referring the case to the Supreme Court; pleading for possible dissolution; and facing the possible outcome are all associated challenges,” he says. But making a successful transition towards the next general election is one of the most important challenges for both the opposition and the government. Mehboob says the ultimate political resolution will come through elections.

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