It remains a dilemma for Pakistan that, to date, not a single Prime Minister has been able to complete his/her tenure of five-year governance. One of the major causes can be attributed to the undemocratic attitude of the politicians and the people of the country; it is a sheer instance of polarized politics in Pakistan. Each ruling government has been victim to leg-pulling from other political parties in the country. The condition of the incumbent Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has unfortunately been indistinguishable with the unraveling of corruption and scandals as well as the political feud between Jahangir Tareen and Imran Khan’s Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Dismantling the Dilemma: Challenges Faced by the Current Government
The current government faces numerous challenges not only from its rivals but also from its former and current confidants. Nevertheless, it is astonishing that many of the scandals associated with the present regime involve a high level of corruption – an act which Prime Minister Imran Khan has strongly condemned in his political ideology and previously, throughout his election campaign.
The only difference the contemporary government has with its antecedents is that, unlike them, it has confronted such hindrances since the very start of its reign. A mammoth controversy that surfaced during the beginning was the scandal of Former PTI minister Amir Kayani regarding the hike in the prices of life-saving drugs in the country.
This case landed the government in deep waters as the controversy surfaced and the minister had to undergo investigation by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Thereafter, Babar bin Atta, Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication, had to resign from his seat due to being accused of gross misconduct in the national polio campaign, severely compromising its impact.
The opposition demanded his arrest but following in the footsteps of Pakistan’s seven-decade-old history, no significant action was taken against the malalignment and the accused. Subsequently, Former Health Minister Zafar Mirza’s case marked another big scar on the face of the PTI government.
The alliance of the opposition parties – PDM – further emerged as a great menace to the PTI government. However, the government was able to strategically tackle and end the sit-in by JUI-F, prior to the formation of PDM, which aimed to end Imran Khan’s government. As PDM emerged, opposition parties came together and plotted to overthrow the government through a vote of no confidence which, however, failed.
Such threats arose periodically yet PM Imran Khan steered clear from them, luckily. It may pose as the truth that perhaps the PTI government’s current challenges come from involvement in two major scandals. The allies are, thus, turning into foes and the incumbent government is slowly treading onto the disastrous course of its predecessors.
Consequently, it is the people of Pakistan who must pay the price of the government’s incompetency; the poverty in the country has increased at an unprecedented rate causing irreparable damage not only to the population but also to PTI’s image and popularity at ground level.
Jahangir Khan Tareen and PTI: A Tale from Allies to Rivals
Jahangir Khan Tareen is a Pakistani businessman and CEO of JDW Group which specializes in sugar manufacturing. His involvement in national politics started in 2002 when he was elected from NA-195 on the ticket of Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q). He not only became a Member of the National Assembly but was also appointed as Special Advisor on Agriculture and Social Sector Initiative to then Chief Minister of Punjab, Chaudhry Pervaiz Ellahi.
Later, he was inducted into the Federal Cabinet in the year 2004 and served there till 2007. He, once again, vanquished the NA-195 seat in the 2008 election on the ticket of PML-F (Functional group). He made a forward bloc named “Tareen Group” which demonstrates his ability and history of making groups in political parties by ‘influencing’ them.
Jahangir Tareen resigned from the National Assembly in 2011 and joined PTI in the same year. He lost the 2013 election from his constituency on the PTI ticket but won in 2015 by-elections and became the MNA for the third time. However, to his misfortune, he was soon disqualified, in 2017, by the Supreme Court of Pakistan under Article 62(1)(f) and was declared “dishonest”.
There had always existed a rift within PTI, where the party was divided between those for and against Jahangir Tareen – those in opposition included Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Asad Umer. The rivalry of Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jahangir Tareen is a well-known affair in the national political arena.
The news of JKT’s disqualification stuck many of his intra-party opponents with joy yet to their disappointment, it did not affect the rapprochement between him and Imran Khan. Jahangir Tareen became the main source of funding for PTI, “encouraging” the independent members of the National Assembly. His campaigns taking place on his private jet to summon the independent members to Bani Gala are no secret.
While his gestures were helpful for Imran Khan prior to and during election time, the former was unable to foresee the calamity these independent members’ inclusion in PTI entailed. While they were able to strengthen PTI’s presence in the Federation, they were never truly loyal to PTI or its manifesto. Their devotion was attached to the patron who “encouraged” them to join PTI.
Unfortunately, it was too late by the time Prime Minister Imran Khan became aware of the developing political situation. Hence, the members have now emerged as a greater threat than the Opposition. Jahangir Tareen planned to escape as FIA registered a case against him in a sugar scam. The FIR states that the inquiry report against the JDW Sugar Mills recorded a false disclosure in its annual audited financial statement of 2014.
Jahangir Tareen, however, denies the claims, stating that all blame and charges against him and his son – including the aforementioned one – are false and unjust. Jahangir Tareen, following his old tactics of creating a forward bloc and influencing the politicians, created a bloc inside the PTI government.
Allegedly, the group comprises 34 members, who vow to remain intact till their leader is cleared from all allegations. The group poses a great obstacle for PTI in passing the coming budget of 2021-22; it will further ensue great calamities for Imran Khan’s premiership and the party’s position in the 2023 elections.
Rawalpindi Ring Road Scandal
The scandal has emanated recently and several politicians from various political parties including two federal cabinet members along with some bureaucrats are allegedly involved in the scam. The government planned to construct a ring road connecting the twin cities and therein, resolving the traffic issue of both the cities.
Many housing societies in Rawalpindi and Islamabad conspired to benefit from the ring road. They used their influence to change the route of the ring road. This not only increased the size of the road mapping but also increased the budget for the project. The expense was managed by reducing the width of the roads from 100 ft to 60 or 65 ft.
Housing Societies including the Nova Housing Society, which is allegedly owned by the Federal Minister of Aviation or his family members, have sold a great number of their lands/plots by using the attraction of a nearby ring road, earning them a huge sum of money. The government has suspended the bureaucrats involved in the scandal and Federal Minister Zulfi Bukhari has resigned from his position.
Aviation Minister in his recent interview with Hamid Mir has stated that he will sue PM Imran Khan for defamation in court. This points toward embittering relations which may possibly become inimical for the Prime Minister’s position.
Will Imran Khan Complete His Tenure?
The question about the completion of Imran Khan’s tenure has become a rife and popular debate on national media. The reason is such that the incumbent government is following suit of its predecessors; the country’s political history is lined with examples in which the governments’ entanglement in scandals and the emergence of forward blocs in the last years of their term resulted in the Prime Ministers being ousted from office.
The emergence of the Rawalpindi Ring Road scandal and Tareen group may very well pose similar threats. The opposition, which allied to end the PTI government, by the name of PDM, collapsed. However, the relief for the government turned out to be temporary as a stronger alliance against the government surfaced from its home.
The “Tareen Group” has severely perplexed the government; passing the upcoming budget of 2021-22 seems to be the Sisyphean task for the government. If it fails to get the bill approved by the people sitting on its benches, a great disaster may possibly ensue. This will, in turn, encourage the opposition and perhaps the Tareen group to table a proposal of Vote of No Confidence against the Prime Minister which now may most likely succeed unlike erstwhile.
However, it is possible that Prime Minister Imran Khan will succeed to lure the Tareen group by stagnating the case against their patron (it is a common belief in Pakistan that governments are powerful enough to file the cases against their opponents and can also mitigate the cases or end the cases whenever they want for their wider interests). Regardless, the clouds of calamity will continue to hover over the Prime Minister’s head as the Tareen group might vote in favor of the bill; for the time being, it may not step back till charges are cleared against Tareen.
Moreover, another peril for the Prime Minister’s government is its dispute with the civilian establishment. The recent humiliating argument of Firdous Ashiq Awan, Special Assistant to CM Punjab on Information and Culture, with Assistant Commissioner Sonia Sadaf, and the public rebuking of diplomats by Prime Minister Imran Khan depict a budding tension between the two pillars of the state.
Each of these acts by the PTI government has fostered deep-seated resentment within the civilian establishment. The unprecedented rise of poverty in the country has also decreased the public support for Imran Khan. Accordingly, the right-wing religious parties, which hold the populist vote as a great street power, are also irked by the policies of the contemporary government.
The recent Rawalpindi Ring Road scandal may possibly prove to be the final nail in the coffin for the current government, as was the Panama scandal for the previous ruling party. The loss of PTI candidates in the recent by-elections, from Punjab to Sindh, portrays the decrease of support and the building up of frustration in the public against the Imran Khan government.
All these factors, collectively or individually, indicate that Prime Minister Imran Khan may not indeed change the course of Pakistan’s 72-year legacy, following closely through. It might be appalling for the supporters of democracy, but in light of the developing events, it is likely that sooner or later PM Imran Khan may be ousted from his office.
The Next Expected Prime Minister?
The recent collapse of the PDM was due to the hardline position of Maryam Nawaz. Her hard rhetoric not only broke apart the PDM but also created a divide within the PML(N). It was a miscalculation on the part of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz that an anti-establishment narrative would be appealing for gathering the masses and increasing the vote bank.
PML (N) was able to do well in the by-elections not because of its narrative but due to the growing unpopularity of PTI as it failed to deliver upon the promises it had made to the population. The collapse of the PDM and the increasing divide inside the party fueled a perception that Maryam Nawaz and her narrative would only damage the party. This has paved the way for Shahbaz Sharif to dominate the party because of well-known good relations with the establishment.
Similarly, Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto also took a prudent step by disowning the dangerous narrative of Maryam Nawaz and her father, bringing them closer to the establishment. Hence, it is plausible that Shahbaz Sharif or Bilawal Bhutto might be portrayed by the media as a beacon of hope for the people of Pakistan. This media campaign could drive them in positioning themselves as future Prime Minister candidates.
It should be noted that an anti-establishment narrative is not in the favor of anyone in Pakistan as it can be detrimental to the sovereignty of the country in the long run. The chances for Shahbaz Sharif in becoming the next Prime Minister are higher as by successfully playing the victim card and with the majority vote in Punjab as the population grows vary of PTI’s policies, PML (N) is well on its way to securing the future cabinet.
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