Cracks in opposition ally may provide easy sailing to Pakistan’s Imran Khan


ISLAMABAD, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) — Rising differences in an alliance of the opposition parties in Pakistan is opening ways for a possible easy sailing to the country’s central government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, said political analysts on Friday.

Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), emerged as the single largest party with 151 seats in the 342-member National Assembly, or the lower house of the parliament, after the July 25 general elections. With the help of several small political parties, the PTI met the minimum-172-seat simple majority to form the federal government.

Soon after the general elections, over 10 political parties, including former ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and some small parties, blamed the Election Commission of Pakistan for an alleged rigging in the elections and formed the “Alliance for Free and Fair Elections.”

The strong opposition alliance had more than 150 seats in the lower house. The opposition decided to give a tough time to the ruling PTI by contesting the elections for the slots of prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker of the chamber. But they lost in the competition.

The first major difference in the opposition alliance emerged when former President Asif Zardari’s PPP refused to vote for Shehbaz Sharif, the president of the PML-N and the joint candidate of the opposition for the election of prime minister.

The PPP’s decision to keep it indifferent to the prime minister election drew a serious criticism from the opposition parties which blamed it for causing cracks in the unity.

Several PPP’s leaders told Xinhua that the party decided not to vote for Shehbaz Sharif due to his hard stance against the PPP’s leadership in the past.

Famous political analyst Mazhar Abbas said that “On paper, it is by far the strongest opposition during the last three decades, but on the ground, it has become the weakest one. They are more against each other than against the government, something which suits Prime Minister Imran Khan-led ruling coalition.”

“Earlier, it was feared that Imran Khan might face challenges in the house from the opposition, but unity in the ruling camp and divisions in the opposition camp brought the whole game in the favor of the government,” Abbas told Xinhua, adding that this division will not be mended easily.

Following the election of prime minister, some senior leaders of the opposition parties realized that on the ground they looked very weak and divided and tried to break the ice between the PML-N and the PPP to go united in the future with PPP’s supports to Shehbaz Sharif to become the leader of the opposition in the lower house.

However, the things did not go well further. The parties of the opposition alliance raised different candidate nominations for the presidential elections to be held on Sept. 4, rather than a joint runner. The PPP nominated its famous figure Aitzaz Ahsan for the post while the remaining opposition parties announced MMA’s chief Fazal-ur-Rehman for the polls.

The relations between the PPP and the PML-N turned bitterer after the latter’s leader Pervaiz Rasheed publicly said that Aitzaz Ahsan should first apologize to PML-N over his previous criticism.

The PTI is like the only winner in the current situation, especially whenever opposition parties are at loggerheads with each other.

Aslam Khan, a columnist of Urdu Daily Nawa-i-Waqt, said that a united opposition could have brought strong presidential candidate and made the election a real contest, but the current situation in the opposition camp showed that PTI’s Arif Alvi will easily become the president.

“Unless Imran Khan commits too many mistakes, he and his government are unlikely to face any serious challenge in the future,” Aslam Khan told Xinhua, adding that the prime minister is playing his cards wisely and would not get any tough challenge from the opposition.

To fulfill his reforms and development agenda, Imran Khan will have to do massive amendments in the laws and constitution of the country, which will be only possible if he manages to get the two-thirds support in the 342-member lower house, which he currently has not.

Aslam Khan believes that Imran Khan and his party’s soft tone towards the PPP and the PTI’s distance from the opposition are creating chances for the two sides to cooperate in the future for the legislation.

“If the PPP supports the government for legislation, the required number of 228 members will be easily achieved for the legislation, but for this necessary support, the PTI has to fulfill several demands of the PPP,” said the columnist, who said the PPP will support the PTI on the name of national interests.