By Agha Iqrar Haroon
August is the month for celebrating Independence in Pakistan as this South Asian country got sovereignty from British Raj on August 14, 1947. Monsoon enters Pakistan in the month of July therefore month of August is also known for its worst weather— Hot and Humid. Historically, monsoon brings flash floods and landslides in catchment areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province and Gilgit Baltistan.
August is also popular for launching protest campaigns by opposition parties in Pakistan and now again opposition parties have chosen this month for a large scale protest movement against Prime Minister of Pakistan Mian Nawaz Sharif.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which rules KPK has decided to hold weekly protests in major cities against Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government while forgetting that their base-camp— KPK is facing constant floods and displacement of people including flushing out of animals and humans in flash floods. Chitral Valley has already experienced destruction while ruling party in province is busy in destabilizing federal government instead of concentrating on rescue and rehabilitation of people in Chitral.
PTI since 2013 General Elections is busy to get power in Islamabad though it has less than 35 seats in the House of 272 members. While ruling party PMLN alone has over 185 and it is supported by second largest party of KPK—JUI (F) with 13 seats in the House.
Right after 2013 General Elections, PTI started protests against election results and claimed that elections were rigged. Political circles believe that PTI had alleged backing of certain quarters closed to former dictator former General Musharraf who threw PMLN government in 1999 and took power away from political system and clamped army rule.
PTI and sitting government had a long legal battle that was won by PMLN government and courts decided that there was no engineered or planned rigging in 2013 General Elections.
Last quarter of year 2014 was very tough for PMLN government when PTI and its allay Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) pitched tent village in front of Pakistani Parliament in Islamabad (that is Red Zone Area) for months to chock the government machinery. Such Dharna (sit in) was unprecedented in the history of Islamabad because establishment had never allowed anybody to halt, chock and place tent village in front of parliament.
PMLN government behaved sensibly and avoided use of power against protest and let PTI and PAT to continue their shows and successfully managed to survive this so-called Azadi March that began on 14 August 2014 and ended on 17 December 2014. This could continue for some more months but PTI decided to take away its Dharna after gruesome and senseless attack on Army Public School (APS) Peshawar where Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) massacred over 130 students aged from six to 16 year.
Majority of private television channels stood with PTI and PAT as partners against government of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) in this protest campaign. Special arrangements were placed to project and promote PTI and PAT in majority of private television channels for 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Certain anchors were professionally embedded with PTI Chief Imran Khan and PAT Chief Dr. Qadri. However, Sharif survived and anti-government campaigns were fizzled out.
However, target of these private television channels was not only Nawaz government rather abusing Parliament and Democracy became norm and Pakistani media ruthlessly launched anti-democracy campaigns and this campaign is still on.
The narrative of anti democracy media is —“since political governments are corrupt—-therefore there is no need of democracy and parliament. Corporate media is not missing any opportunity for defaming Democracy and Parliament. Though PMLN is the prime target of corporate media propaganda but PMLN won majority of by-elections and eroded all political parties in recently held general elections in Azad & Jammu Kashmir (AJK) by bagging 31 out of 41 general seats. The PMLN landslide victory in AJK testifies that over-done propaganda by corporate media helps the target instead of finger under the trigger.
Political observers believe that PMLN victory in AJK General Elections has actually eroded credibility, importance and effective role of electronic media in Pakistani society.
On the other hand, PMLN governments in centre and in province of Punjab continued to follow their political as well as infrastructure development agendas. Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus Service project was main target of opposition during Dharnas but this project was successfully completed and now over 200,000 residents of twin cities are enjoying metro bus service every day. Opposition then started crying over Lahore Orange Lane city train project that is underway and work was not halted for a single day since the project was initiated.
Opposition got another opportunity of targeting PMLN government when Panama Papers came out on surface and names of two sons of Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif were appeared as owner of offshore companies. This event was followed by serious health problem for Sharif he had to leave country for his heart surgery in London. He had to stay away from routine work under the advice of his doctors for 50 days.
Now, Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif is back in saddle and is riding his horse in full speed as finishing line is just 18 miles away if we consider every month as a mile and finishing line as forthcoming General Elections those are scheduled to be help in May 2018. Now it looks that he is in fast and furious mood and mode, holding over 10 meetings a day in his office, consulting his party members and political associates.
There is no doubt that he has surpassed lofty hurdles in this race but race is yet not finished and opposition parties have gathered again and have launched protest campaigns against government.
As usual, PTI and PAT are front runners though PAT has no representation in Parliament. Pakistani born Canadian Dr. Tahirul Qadri who heads Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) is back and has launched countrywide campaign from August 6, 2016.
PTI and PAT can join hands anytime as they did in 2014 by holding joint Dharnas in front of Parliament House.
Qadri claims the protest campaign will continue till the heirs of 14 victims of the Model Town tragedy are given justice. Meanwhile, the PTI’s protest movement against the Panama Leaks will feature a rally from Peshawar to Rawalpindi on August 7 (today) led by PTI Chief Imran Khan.
PTI quarters say that protest rallies will continue until the government accepts Terms of Reference (TORs) to probe the Panama Leaks demanded by opposition parties.
Imran Khan sells idea that politicians are corrupt therefore they (politicians) are the major threat to democracy. He claims that Pakistan is at the crossroad and people of the country have to decide whether they are satisfied with the corrupt ruling elites or if they want a strong and stable democratic system in the country.
Dr Qadri announced the protest movement in a National Consultative Conference that was held on July 31 and was attended by the representatives of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Awami Muslim League (AML), Pakistan Muslim League Q (PML-Q), Sunni Ittehad Council, Mutahida Qaumi Movement, Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) and Jamat-e-Islami (JI).
According to PAT schedule, there will be protest marches in 9 cities on August 16. These marches will be held in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, DG Khan, Sialkot, Sargodha, Sakhar, Larkana and Chiniot. Furthermore, sit-ins will be staged in Peshawar, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Hyderabad, Bahawalpur, Jehlum, Okara and Toba Tek Singh on August 20. There will be protests in Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Gujrat, Abbotabad and Bhakkar on August 27. Islamabad will be the last venue of first phase of protest when PAT will stage a sit-in in Islamabad on August 30.
Political observers believe that although PTI and PAT in their recent campaigns claim that their protests are against sitting government but both will start targeting Democracy and Parliament and will demand a system beyond the constitution of 1973 like suspension of Parliament and placing some adhoc system — National Government for one or two years for launching accountability process against politicians.
Meanwhile, PTI workers are not as active as they were in past and PTI Punjab is practically away from main activities because Imran Khan promised them in year 2014 that Empire (Imran Khan never explained who was this Empire but political observer believe that Khan was referring to Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif) would decide the fate of PMLN government and 2014 would be the year of General Elections. Then he called year 2015 as year of General Elections and then he promised again with his workers that year 2016 would be the last year for PMLN governments in centre and Punjab. Meanwhile, last two years were not very promising for Imran Khan as he was busy in arranging his marriage with anchor person Reham Khan and then was under stressed due to their instant divorce. This unfortunate development helped political opponents of Khan to tell his workers that he (Khan) is an impulsive and erratic personality—- both qualities national leaders must not posses if he really wishes to lead his party for a Nia Pakistan (A new Pakistan). News of third marriage of Khan appeared in media but he denied and said that he had not married again.
Next 15 days will full of “Realpolitik” in Pakistan, deciding the fate of PTI for its position in 2018 General Elections.
Political observers believe that stakes are high for PTI –not for PMLN because results of AJ&K General Elections have played a pivotal role in boosting the morale of PMLN workers as well as its leadership while defeat has eroded confidence of PPP and PTI and workers of PTI do not take Khan seriously —at least in Punjab.
Political observers feel that people have rejected the politics of confrontation and people need development to support or disown any political party and PTI has failed to follow developmental agenda in KPK where it has government since 2013 General Elections.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.