Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Pakistan Political Turmoil

Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Pakistan Political Turmoil

In this episode of Worldview with Suhasini Haidar, we look at Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s no-confidence vote and its impact on India.

Pakistan’s political waters are seldom calm, but even by those standards, the past few weeks have been choppy: with opposition leaders coming together to present a no-confidence resolution against Prime Minister Imran Khan’s PTI government, which is now set to be taken up on March 28, in about 10 days. th

To win the vote the PTI needs a simple majority in the 342 seat National Assembly- or 172 seats. At present, the PTI has 155 seats in the house.

Mr. Khan actually won his own confidence motion just a year ago in March 2021, since the opposition was disunited, and he won 178 votes. In fact in 1989 and 2006, the only two previous no confidence motions in Pakistan, the government was able to survive.

The NCM has been brought by all the traditional Pakistani parties, which include

The Pakistan Democracy Movement, set up in 2020 comprising

– PML-N led by the Sharifs

– Conservative parties like the Jamaat ul Islaam of Fazlur Rahman and other “Jamaati” parties

– More secular and regional parties like the Baloch National Party and Aftab Sherpao’s Quami Watan party

And then there is the

-PPP, headed by the Zardari-Bhuttos

– Awami National Party – Pukthoon party set up by Khans descended from Bacha Khan

Both the PPP and the ANP were actually part of the PDM earlier, but quit last year. In fact this is why this NCM is more important, as it signifies that opposition parties have actually come together this time.

So, why is the timing of this NCM more trouble for Imran Khan?

Key allies within the PTI government like the PML-Q and MQM have now distanced themselves, and their support for Mr. Khan is now in doubt- One particularly watched meeting was that of PML-Q chief Chaudhury Shujaat and the Chinese DCM, prompting concerns that even China is playing a role in the crisis

Some members of the PTI itself have now said they will vote against the government- some are holed up in Opposition controlled guest houses.

There’s also real fear of violence- as the opposition plans a march to Islamabad on March 25, and the PTI has called for a rally of its supporters in Islamabad on March 27- the worry now that they could prevent lawmakers from entering parliament.

So pre-occupied was the government with its own political developments- that a massive scare from India, where a missile that was launched by mistake on March 9 and landed in Pakistan, without causing any damage, did not set off major alarm bells, and the incident was managed without escalation

The build up to the NCM comes at a particularly awkward time internationally- as Pakistan will celebrate its National Day, equivalent of the Republic Day with a massive parade on March 23, and special guests are expected- about 48 Foreign Ministers of the OIC are due to attend an OIC conference on the 22 and stay on, while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is to address the OIC as well. nd

And then there is history- since 1947, no Pakistani Prime Minister has completed a full 5 year term. The first Pakistan PM Liaqat Ali Khan was assassinated four years into his tenure, and subsequent PMs have lasted less- with only PPPs Yousuf Raza Gilani and PML-Ns Nawaz Sharif even completing 4 years- due to political instability, corruption cases, and military coups

Now, even if he does win the vote- PM Khan has a tough year ahead, and general elections are due in 2023 in any case.

Difficult Factors for Imran Khan besides political wrangles: Tensions with US- For most of his political career Imran Khan has had a testy relationship with the US- apart from a brief period of bonhomie with President Trump when he visited Washington, the US has come down heavily over the last few years over Pakistan’s support to the Taliban, although the US military continued to engage the Pakistani military on the peace deal. US President Biden has not once called PM Khan since taking office, and when he invited Mr. Khan to the US Democracy Summit last year, Khan rejected the invitation. Meanwhile PM Khan has visited China 4 times in 4 years, and this year visited Moscow on the very day Russian President Putin declared war on Ukraine

Afghanistan no recognition- Meanwhile ties with the Taliban have not improved since they won control of their country, and gained independence from their Pakistani controllers, and even on issues like dealing with India, the Taliban has been at some odds, while PM Khan has been unable to lobby successfully for any country to recognise the Taliban regime officiallyEconomic crisis- The PTI government inherited an economic crisis from the previous government, but has not improved it, despite many chances to carry out big reforms. Rising inflation, a burgeoning current account deficit, and worries of a debt default, given increasing CPEC loan value are all big concerns. While Mr. Khan has distinguished himself in forging trade agreements in the neighbourhood, particularly with landlocked Central Asia that wants to trade through Pakistan, this hasn’t yet resulted in prosperity on the ground.FATF: Adding to that the stringent financial regulations as Pakistan remains on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since 2018, mainly as it has not yet completed prosecutions of UN banned terrorists like Hafiz Saeed and Taliban and Al Qaeda leadersTerrorism: Even though there is a marked lowering of threats from Islamist groups targeting India, and the Taliban is now in power in Afghanistan, Pakistan is seeing a resurgence in violence, mainly from the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), a number of bomb blasts in Lahore and Karachi, and a series of attacks in which military personnel have been killed.

How India should view events in Pakistan, given that this crisis is not really about India-Pakistan relations

Instability in India’s neighbourhood is always a cause for concern- but on the upside- Pakistan’s internal turmoil will keep the establishment occupied and not a threat to India.

While Imran Khan started out by offering a hand of friendship to India, proposed and completed the Kartarpur Gurudwara corridor for Indian pilgrims, he soon turned, after the Modi government’s reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir, and all real movement is at a standstill.

A different PM at the helm- for eg, the Sharifs were able in the past to build a back-channel with PM Modi, are seen as more friendly to ties with India, and particularly on reopening trade. In contrast PM Khan has targeted PM Modi quite personally, accusing him of running a Nazi supremacist agenda against Indian muslims.

The other Backchannel- between NSA Ajit Doval and the Pakistani military, widely acknowledged to still be operations, is unlikely to be affected by a change in government in Pakistan. The fact that there was no military escalation after the Indian missile misfired into Pakistan, is being credited to this channel.

With India also focussed on a number of international events, including next year’s G-20 in Delhi, the situation in Pakistan and ties with Pakistan are not at present at the top of the Modi government’s agenda. But a different PM could possibly be able to hold the SAARC summit, even virtually, which New Delhi may agree to. It is also significant that during the current Ukraine crisis, India and Pakistan’s positions have not been dissimiliar- and that Chinese FM Wang Yi- who is visiting Pakistan and Nepal, may make a visit to Delhi as well.

Your email address will not be published.