What is happening in Pakistan?
Pakistan is going through tough times. The Nawaz Sharif government seems caught in a tight situation on all fronts. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) party led by former cricketer Imran Khan is all set pull out its all 34 MPs from the Parliament to force the ruling government to step down. Mr. Sharif’s government represents a first in the country in terms of smooth democratic transition of power amidst a history of military coups and unstable governments. The party is also expected to resign from 3 out of 4 provincial assemblies in Pakistan.
This comes as a next step to the well-carved strategy which began with a huge march towards Islamabad last week. Thousands of Imran Khan’s supporters had gathered on the streets to express their dissatisfaction and sagging trust in the Sharif government. Some 15000-20000 people had joined PTI on the outskirts of Lahore in the NW Punjab region. The protest was also co-timed by another big protest and long march guided by the cleric Tahir ul Qadri who had called on his supporters to carry out a Revolution March sharing grievances with the PTI. Both the protest marches were largely peaceful due to heavy presence of police along the route leading to Islamabad. There were some reports of clashes between Mr. Qadri’s supporters and police in which 5 people were reportedly killed.
Pakistan’s interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a press conference that the march was allowed till the red-zone in the capital which houses many government buildings.
This political crisis comes at a time when the country is waging a war against dreadful Islamist militants in the restive tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. PTI has upheld accusations against the ruling party about widespread poll-rigging and electoral fraud. They also highlight the failure of the government to provide basic amenities like regular electricity supply, bad economic performance and the insurgence of militancy to unexpected proportions.
Mr. Sharif in an unique address to the nation has refuted all charges levied against him and has offered the PTI head the formation of a commission comprising 3 Supreme Court judges to look into the credibility of allegations.
PTI’s steps have not been acclaimed by the political experts. Former President Zardari has said that PTI should have adopted constitutional and civil means to address policy issues. He was speaking against the call for stoppage of tax-payments to government by PTI Chief as a call for Civil Disobedience.
What shape the current events will take is both a matter of high concern for India especially in the wake of recent call-off of the bilateral talks by the Indian PM after the meeting between Pakistan’s High Commissioner and the Kashmiri separatist Shabir Shah. The Indian side has raised concern over the basic intentions and sincerity of Pakistan’s commitment to constructively engage with India.