Last Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan presided over a meeting of his party’s core committee. The Tehreek-e-Insaf bigwigs gathered against the backdrop of a host of developments on the political front, particularly the controversy over allowing the three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for medical treatment. Imran has taken certain decisions, including constitution of three committees to improve government’s public image, focus on governance in line with the party’s vision and better performance in the parliament.
The committee that has been tasked with improving the government’s image through effective media policy comprises Special Assistant to the PM on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan, Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry and senior party leaders Jahangir Tareen and Asad Umar. The panel would report directly to the Prime Minister. The second committee comprising Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadari, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and K-P Governor Shah Farman will prepare recommendations to introduce changes in line with the State of Madina.
The third committee formed by the Prime Minister is meant for parliamentary affairs. The inclusion of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Leader of the House in Senate Shibli Faraz in the committee shows the PTI is going to reach out to the opposition parties for better working relationship in both houses of parliament.
The PM is also contemplating bringing changes in the federal cabinet.
All these decisions by the PTI’s core committee point out towards one thing that the government is now really feeling the heat of not delivering on its election promises. What has caused concerns in the PTI’s rank and file is the sudden change of tone by its allies particularly the Chaudhries of Gujarat — Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi — who for long maintained a low profile, have suddenly emerged on the political scene after JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman staged a sit-in in Islamabad. On November 13, Maulana abruptly called off his “Azadi March”, triggering speculations of a possible understanding he might have reached with the powers-that-be through Chaudhry brothers. The government is apparently baffled with this development. The Prime Minister in one of his recent interactions with party men reportedly asked if the government was being deceived. Pervaiz Elahi in a TV interview confirmed that some understanding had been reached with the JUI-F chief after which he called off his almost two-week-long protest. He, however, would not share any details or give any insight into whether a deal was struck with the government or someone else.
Also what surprised many was the manner in which Chaudhry brothers opposed the government move to link Nawaz Shari’s departure from the country with a Rs7 billion indemnity bond. They also warned the PM of dire consequences if anything happens to Nawaz Sharif. Not only this, another government ally, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), also pressed the government for letting the former PM leave the country without any conditions. A couple of ministers also advocated the same. Those who follow Pakistani politics closely and know Chaudhry brothers and the MQM feel that it is impossible that these politicians and parties have given such statements without the blessings of the powers-that-be. This means the “same page” mantra is fast becoming a myth. The apparent shift is attributed to the realisation within the powerful quarters that there is need to lower the political temperature in order to meet the plethora of internal and external challenges. Will Imran adjust to the new realities? He reportedly took a break from official engagements at the weekend, perhaps to reflect upon the evolving situation. Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2019.