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Garnering political support

EDITORIAL: It was a rather unusual event. Prime Minister Imran Khan hosted a special dinner reception on Sunday for...

Jun 30 2020

EDITORIAL: It was a rather unusual event. Prime Minister Imran Khan hosted a special dinner reception on Sunday for the ruling party legislators and coalition partners in an apparent bid to elicit maximum support for the passage of the Finance Bill 2020. That unusual gesture on the PM's part reflected the unusual pressures that he faces from inside his party; outside from coalition partners, and farther away from the opposition parties. Earlier in the day, he held separate meetings with alliance partners as well as more than a dozen party legislators, said to be resentful of non-provision of development funds for their constituencies. He assured them that their concerns would be allayed. Nonetheless, the PML-Q, the key coalition partner of the government at the centre and in Punjab, decided to stay away from the reception to register its disappointment over what it regards as the ruling party's failure to honour some of the alliance agreement provisions, though the Q League president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said his party would vote for the finance bill.

Meanwhile, the opposition parties having representation in the National Assembly held a meeting all day on Sunday, coming up with a joint statement to reject the federal budget "entirely and forcefully", avowing to explore all "constitutional means" to oust the government. Unsurprisingly, the PM took the first opportunity to respond to that threat, though not entirely in an appropriate manner. "Some people give new date of ousting of the government with every passing day," he said, "but I assure you that we are going nowhere." Indeed there is nothing to suggest he is about to pack his bags. Much as they would like to see the back of him, the opposition parties know there is no likelihood of them mustering enough strength in Parliament to pass a no-confidence vote against his government. Hence until recently on separate occasions both major parties, the PML-N and PPP, have been saying they did not want to oust the government. However, Khan appeared to be a bit over-confident as he went on to claim that he is the only option for the country with no substitute. Surely, as the leader of the majority party he is the only option until the next general election. Yet that could be a false sense of reality. Some unforeseen development could give the incentive to ruling party's partners, like the PML-Q and MQM, to bolt from the coalition. There is nothing out of the realm of possibility given this country's political uncertainties.

As things stand, even this government's worst critics hold that the opposition cannot undo it, its own policies can. The PM needs to take a hard look on policies causing rifts within the party - as manifested in public statements of at least three federal ministers - and more important, to deliver on his campaign promises of jobs for the unemployed youth, housing for the poor, and education for all. Exceptional financial challenges may have put a break on the realization of these plans. But he had also promised to undertake police reforms to rid the people of the 'thana culture', install duly empowered local governments in the PTI-ruled provinces, and strengthen democratic institutions. Action is still awaited in all of these areas. He could expect to be as strong as good is his governance.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020