Guessing game on — what will become of Imran Khan and PTI — will he go to jail and his party disband?

Guessing game on -- what will become of Imran Khan and PTI -- will he go to jail and his party disband

By Irum Saleem

   Guessing game is on….what will become of former prime minister Imran Khan and his PTI.

   Will he go to jail…will his party be disbanded?

    All kind of guess work is on. But no one is certain about the future of both — Imran Khan and PTI.

      Dawn’s columnist Arifa Noor says PTI juggernaut may have been brought to a stop but politics in Punjab hasn’t. It goes on at full throttle, with Asif Ali Zardari busy meeting electables in the province who are heading for the PPP after a long time. The PML-Q is also welcoming a few into its fold. But the biggest news of the week was the launch of yet another new party full of old, familiar faces, who had once walked the halls of Banigala. From those who had left earlier, such as Jahangir Khan Tareen (JKT) and Aleem Khan, to those who retired recently from politics, they were all there.

   “The launch was grand and was covered extensively but the reaction was, if we allow for a little bit of slang … meh. This perhaps was less due to the politicians collected there than our collective experience, lived and remembered. As many people keep pointing out, the script is now so old that everyone knows how it turns out — it’s the butler, who did it. And everyone and their khala knows it. Having seen it happen with the Jatoi-led National People’s Party and the Chaudhry-led PML-Q and even the PPP-Patriots, who does not know that these ‘marriages’ of convenience work only for a short while? Eventually though, politicians have to return to the political parties once their non-political friends step back, for some reason or the other. In the meantime, there may have been cabinet posts and protocol but the years in the wilderness can be longer and the future uncertain for long. (Ask the Chaudhries.) Going back is never easy; not only is the leadership wary, so is the general public, and the media is harsh,” Noor says.

   The unhappiness was hard to miss on the day of the launch of the new party. In addition, there is politics. The party vote is the consolidating factor. But there are fewer and fewer electables who can win on their own steam. The best ones need a party ticket to make it across the finish line, preferably coming from a party that has a sizeable following. The PTI, for the moment, is popular in Punjab and has this vote bank but it comes with the leader and his endorsement; it is not there for those who have moved on.

  “These are the reasons why it wasn’t easy to take the PTI apart until it became obvious how final the decision was. The politicians had known how close electoral victory was with the party ticket. Even then it took pressure. Perhaps this is why the unhappiness was hard to miss on the day of the launch of the new party: those leaving the PTI are doing so for the wilderness; there is no ‘king’ around who is going to ensure their victory. For, the king needs to be there, to be seen, and to rule, with his band of merry men. Invisible men don’t really cut it, unless of course there is a plan to throw off the invisibility cloak which we are yet to be told about. But moving on to the larger picture, what does this new party tell us about the days to come? One, that unlike the past three elections, it is still not clear who is the lucky man about to be crowned. In 2008, 2013 and 2018, we all knew on whose head the huma was about to land. This time, we don’t even know if the bird is circling above or not. JKT and his non-electables are best placed to strike a psychological blow or may just play spoiler. The PPP is said to be the blue-eyed party this time but its chances in Punjab still look dicey; it will probably need just a little less help than the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP).”

    Arifa Noor further says but more interesting was the reaction of the PML-N. Khawaja Asif and others were quick to say that the PML-N shared a good relationship with JKT and the two parties could carry out some seat adjustment. The last time the PML-N went in for such an arrangement was in 2008. Is this an admission that the party is already prepared for a similar outcome, i.e. a hung parliament this time and is looking around for allies?

    “It has long been said that those on whose behalf the IPP, the PPP, and even the PML-Q, are suddenly active don’t want PTI to win but they also don’t want the PML-N to win too big, which it might if PTI is forcibly removed from the electoral arena. After all, 1997 is not that long ago. The PML-N is aware of this; in fact, there are many who are wondering why the party is not worried. Khawaja Asif’s statement shows the party is perhaps trying to conserve some political space by offering seat adjustments to the JKT group before others do.

    But even then, the alliance will not be easy to pull off. Consider that Lodhran, where JKT contests from, is the stronghold of a PML-N cabinet minister and his group. The adjustments might not be all that easy to make.

   All this points towards another, previously highlighted, possibility: the aim to create a hung parliament, and a coalition government to take things forward. But some are cautious and say this will happen only if the results from successful manipulation are evident in the crystal ball. If not, then there are no guarantees this season will give way to a new one.”

     Sounds like a plan. But — and there’s always a ‘but’ — this plan doesn’t really account for what will happen to the economy if there is no election. (Not that an election and a hung parliament bring much assurance regarding the economy.) However, the uncertainty around the political set-up will further delay everything on the economic front; even if people are certain the entire edifice can be held up — without or without a legal cover — there are chances this support will be there for a year or so. Either way, the roller coaster ride of Pakistani politics is set to continue and the only istehkam (stability) to be seen is in the name of the newly launched party, Noor says. PAK DESTINY

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