Battling for survival: Imran Khan no longer trusted in Pakistan

5th July 2020

5th July 2020

Imran Khan’s hold on Pakistan is getting shakier by the minute and it looks a long battle of survival for him and his Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party.

Now nearing two years in office since his win in the general elections in 2018, Imran Khan and his party’s credibility has slumped to the extent that three out of five Pakistanis—nearly 60 per cent--rate his performance as worse than that of the previous government, as per a Gallup Survey.

Two things have led to bring discontent to a boil in the masses against Khan’s government: (a) His handling of Corona pandemic; (2) the worsening wheat crisis.

Khan’s government has been cavalier in these months of Corona pandemic, leaving the masses at the mercy of the virus which has led to a steep decline in public trust.

A senior leader of the party—the governor of Sindh province—has said that Covid-19 is nothing more than the flu and people have no reason to worry. Minister of state for Climate Change, Zartaj Gul Wazir has claimed that “Covid-19 means that it has 19 points that can be applied to any country in any way.”

Figures, as on Sunday, indicated that Pakistan has 2.28 lakh Corona positive cases and just a tad over 4,000 have died. Since tests are few and figures are arguably manipulated, most don’t believe it’s a real reflection of pandemic in the country.

Meanwhile, the wheat crisis has led the country to a stage where at the moment only 4.2 million tonnes, or two months stocks, are left with the government.

Indeed, the supply of wheat is undergoing its most serious crisis ever and hoarders and black marketeers are having a field day.

The Pak government had put a ban on wheat export in July 2019 yet has allowed export of 48,000 tons which has skyrocketed wheat prices in the country.

The corruption in wheat is rife which it is alleged involves several top ministers who have manipulated the domestic market to make billions.

The water scarcity is immense and farmers, in a bid to survive, are substituting wheat with sugarcane production which has led to hike inthe latter’s prices too. Indeed, Pakistan is staring at a serious food crisis in coming months.

Terrorism is on a steep rising curve. Explosions in public places are becoming common place. Over the last few weeks, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Islamic State (IS), the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), the Baluchistan Liberation Tigers (BLT) have all claimed credit for blasts around Pakistan. A fortnight ago, militants killed Pakistani soldiers in north Wazirstan. Sindh has seen consecutive bomb explosions to the extent that reports indicate a secessinist movement is raging to break Sindh away from the Pakistani federation. It’s also well known that Pakistan is struggling to avoid being blacklisted by Financial Action Task Force (FATF) due to support to terrorist networks.

Further, there is mass exodus happening in Khan’s own party. In Punjab, several unhappy lawmakers are threatening to form forward blocks. Khan’s allies—Sardar Akhtar Mengal of Balochistan National Party (BNP-M) for instance—has left the government and joined the opposition. It’s also been reported Mengal has met with the chief of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman to chart out a plan to bring down the government.

Other allies of PTI might not walk out but their bargaining position would significantly improve and make the government weaker. An op-ed in Dawn stated: “Do not be surprised if you see the allies becoming a bit more vocal in their grievances, a bit more aggressive in their dealings, and a bit more demanding in their requirements.”

 

Then there is Pakistan’s powerful military observing, if not whetting, the developments in the background. They could be seeking an improved role in managing nation’s politics.

 

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