In the midst of political and economic crises, the all-powerful Pakistan military establishment is planning a ‘soft intervention’ in which it would act as a go-between for former PM and PTI chairman Imran Khan and the ruling coalition parties — PML-N, PPP, JUI-F, and others, according to Geo News, citing sources. According to the report, there is a chance of a ‘grand dialogue’ between the opposition and the government.
Though there has been no official confirmation, reports indicate that the ousted prime minister is open to dialogue. Suhail Warraich, a senior journalist, told Geo News that he met Khan and that ‘he is ready for negotiations’ with the coalition government on three issues: elections and election reforms, the economic agenda, and the appointment of the army chief.
Pakistan has been in political turmoil since Imran Khan was deposed following a no-confidence vote. There have been incidents of political parties frequently approaching courts over political problems, the most recent being the Punjab episode, in which Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s son Hamza Shahbaz took oath as chief minister twice and his appointment was challenged in court each time.
Furthermore, there are plans to hold the next general elections in October. Political unrest has also contributed to Pakistan’s economic decline, as its currency continues to fall against the US dollar. The Pakistan Stock Exchange has also seen consistent drops in recent sessions, with both markets reaching historic lows.
Conundrum in Punjab by-elections
The current political crisis stems from the recently concluded by-elections for the position of chief minister in Punjab. Even though his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party did not win a majority in the assembly in the July 17 polls, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son Hamza was declared the winner.
Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari rejected 10 votes from Hamza’s rival candidate Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi’s party, Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), an ally of Khan, citing Article 63-A of the Constitution. The PML-N received 179 votes in the 368-member Punjab Assembly, while Elahi’s party received 176 votes. Ten votes from Elahi’s PML-Q were not counted because they defied party chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s orders.
The attempt to delegitimize the ten votes elicited a vehement response from PTI-PMLQ lawmakers, who protested against the deputy speaker. Late Friday night, supporters of Khan staged nationwide protests against what they called the ‘illegal’ election of the chief minister. PTI announced that it would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.