Top PPP leaders are on the exit control list (ECL), along with their alleged business partners and financial and political aiders and abettors. The total count comes to 172 – all named in a report prepared by a joint investigation team (JIT) in connection with the fake bank accounts case being heard by the top court under a suo motu notice. Never ever a figure as big as this has made it to the ECL in one go. Prominent among those who cannot fly out are Asif Ali Zardari, her sister Faryal Talpur and Bilawal Bhutto. Even Murad Ali Shah and Qaim Ali Shah, the incumbent and former chief ministers of Sindh province respectively, find themselves on the no-fly list. Additionally, the election commission has been moved for disqualifying Zardari as lawmaker for not declaring a flat in New York that he allegedly owns. The former president of Pakistan is, therefore, faced with the risk of both imprisonment and disqualification – a fate that Nawaz Sharif, a prime minister twice, has already met with.
The top leadership of the two main opposition parties in the country is either languishing behind bars (under a sentence from the court or for interrogation) or is braced for such tough times. What does that mean for the prevailing and future politics in the country? Are we going to see a new phase of the turbulent times in politics that the country has been passing through for the last so many years? If yes, will the political unrest take its conceivable toll on an already fragile economy? There may well be a political reaction – as Bilawal Bhutto threatened during his speech at a public gathering in Garhi Khuda Bukhsh on the occasion of the 11th death anniversary of his mother and former prime minister Banazir Bhutto – but not to an extent that could grip the country, or even parts of it, and paralyse the working of the government. Well, the PML-N reaction to what it calls the government’s political victimisation campaign is a good reference to this forecast. Economy, however, holds the key. If the government fails to bring the economy on track and improve the lot of the common man, the tide may turn in the opposition’s favour.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2018.
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