Ever since Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed office, there have been questions raised whether he will be able to complete his tenure. History certainly is not on his side, as no democratically-elected Pakistani leader has ever completed a full term.
The PTI has a thin majority in parliament and required the support of allies, particularly the PML-Q and MQM along with several independents, to form government. The fragile coalition is likely to collapse as political allies, for vested interests, are now distancing themselves.
The MQM was the first to express its dismay in the federal government, complaining that Karachi was being neglected. Khalid Maqbool resigned from the IT Ministry but the party managed to hold onto the crucial Law Ministry. All efforts to pacify the MQM have failed as it seeks to open its closed offices and receive more development funds. The party even wants the Ministry for Ports and Shipping, and seems in a stiff position to negotiate with the government.
On the other hand, the PML-Q has also expressed its reservations with the Punjab government. The party has greater influence in the province and also holds the Speaker Punjab Assembly post. Now it seeks administrative powers as well. Reports have surfaced that PML-Q’s Moonis Elahi has emerged as the de facto chief minister in the province. The PTI is considering giving him a federal ministry to pacify the PML-Q.
With disgruntled allies, questions are being raised whether the PTI government will be able to complete its term. Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed is the next one to express his reservations as he fears losing his ministry over dismal performance. PTI’s allies in Sindh, the GDA, and in Balochistan, the BNP-M, are also distancing themselves. Is there something brewing or are these parties seeking a bigger share of the pie?
The PML-N has expressed willingness to bring an in-house change. The opposition is not in a position to table a no-confidence position against the prime minister. If the opposition teams up against the government, it is unlikely that PPP and PML-N will agree to form a coalition with PML-Q and MQM, let alone agree mutually on a prime minister.
PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif understands this and his target is likely to be the Punjab government rather than the Centre. He is expected to return next month and has been planning his next move while in London. This has irked Buzdar who realises that he may be toppled. The PML-N is even willing to give the coveted chief minister’s post to the PML-Q if Buzdar’s government falls.
Imran Khan has refrained from removing Buzdar due to the narrow margin of votes in the Punjab Assembly. While Imran Khan might be able to salvage his government, he most likely will be unable to save his trusted man in Punjab, and this will in return disrupt the federal setup.