London party

All roads lead to London?


It was an elaborate ritual, meant to bring some closure, but it didn’t, because no conclusions were drawn. The meeting between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and PML(N) supremo Nawaz Sharif, as well as key Cabinet members, was perhaps not the inevitable and necessary, but clear decisions to which she did not succeeded.

Above all, there was no real decision on what was going to happen to the gasoline subsidy. Removing it would not only be a blow because of the increased inflation that would result, not only in terms of the movement of people, but also in the transport of goods and electricity tariffs. Nobody seems to have thought about what would have happened if the government hadn’t inherited it. It is highly unlikely that the government imposed it after taking power.

Not removing it means negotiations with the IMF are dead in the water before they begin. Apart from that, with all the consequences that entails, the continuation of the subsidy can paralyze the whole country. The prospect exists that the government is running out of money, that it is unable to pay salaries. With the new autonomy granted to the State Bank of Pakistan, it is not so easy to simply print more money to fill the gap. Even if it were possible, what would be the political effects of the inflation caused by printing more money?

The absolutist ‘no step back’ position has been diluted and there is now talk of a middle way, of removing part of the subsidy, which is a tacit admission that it is unaffordable in its entirety. The problem is that while rising oil prices are an act of God if there ever was one, it’s impossible to predict when the Russian-Ukrainian war, which caused the current spike, might end. Instead of the quick victory sought by Russia, the war is showing all signs of settling into the protracted and indecisive grind that was predicted even before the conflict began.

This uncertainty is perhaps the main reason the Shehbaz coalition has been criticized, first by the ousted PTI, but now increasingly by its supporters, for failing to deliver on its promises. Perhaps he is paying the price for exaggerating his competence. The government cannot work miracles. But that is precisely what he promised. There is the argument that Imran would also have been just as unhappy if he had been allowed to stay in power, but that doesn’t really hold up, because the inability of the current government to deal with the crisis means that he has no There was no point in eliminating the incompetent failure if all that replacing it was another failure, no matter how competent.

This might be unfair to the current government, first because it may not have known the magnitude of the problem the PTI was leaving behind, and it would have been prone to politicians’ occupational disease, optimism (Just ask Imran if he would be able to handle Pakistan’s problems if he were brought back to power; he would never say no). However, there is little evidence that the government, when in opposition, had a radical plan. After coming to power, the government took no action to reduce inflation or any of the deficits it faces, which would give the impression that when it was in opposition it formulated a plan to handle the situation.

Any plan unveiled now would be attributed to Mian Nawaz, as well as Ishaq Dar. It would only add to the problem of having some kind of shadow government in London. Mian Nawaz doesn’t seem to have a fictional interior minister unless it’s Abid Sher Ali, and it seems he’s even missing a hint of a foreign minister, that department definitely seeming handed over to the PPP. However, these days, it seems, finances are in the running and could play a decisive role in the other two questions that Mian Nawaz was asked: the fate of Imran Khan and the timing of new elections.

One problem that everyone seems to dodge is that Mian Nawaz and Imran are not young men. Mian Nawaz is 75, while Imran will turn 70 next March. Therefore, neither can afford to wait and are both in a rush. This will lead them both to the kind of haste that will make mistakes. And neither can afford to wait for the other, as Bilawal Bhutto Zardari can.

While Imran’s fate is unrelated to the economy, except insofar as it disrupts the economic environment, the timing of the elections has to do with the economy. Imran’s fate is tied to how close to the wind he sails in his attacks on the army collectively and on the COAS individually.

His claims that his references to Mir Sadiq are in fact about the Sharif brothers are unconvincing, to say the least. If he is perceived as trying to sow disaffection within the ranks of the military, problems will arise. Since the time of the Rawalpindi conspiracy in 1951 there have been attempts to have what in Spain was known as a nibble: a coup attempt not involving the leader, even at the level of lieutenant-colonel. Nope nibble even took place, because the authorities have always found some cold-footed conspirator.

However, the discipline of the army is strained due to the support of the PTI. The PTI was somehow identified as the army’s own party, not just a party to be supported by individual choice. This cannot be ignored by military leaders. It is no longer about the political role of the military, but about preventing a vital national institution from losing its cohesion.

Some commentators across the border noted with ill-concealed glee that the PTI had crowds chanting anti-army slogans. This is an issue that tips the scales against Imran.

There are too many signals emanating from ignoring that there are Imran’s plans to take over. However, whether it is because of his tirades against the establishment, or because of corruption cases, depends on the skill of the investigators. Whatever the accusation, it will be because of the military, not any other institution. An arrest could also serve to end any calls for a timber march on Islamabad, followed by a sit-in.

The PTI’s own announcement of a mobilization plan if arrested indicates that it expects this to happen, and may also be a warning of the consequences of such a move. However, the consequences of an election in which the PTI is deprived of its most effective activist must cause the government to delay until it has announced an election.

The PML(N) also has its own legal problems, preventing its most effective activist from campaigning. How quickly Mian Nawaz can get rid of travel restrictions will determine when the government goes to the polls. The situation is now very favorable for him to face the various difficulties with which he is confronted. However, there was no indication of a timetable other than a mention of the constitutional limit, which mandates that the election be held 90 days after his five-year term expires on August 17, 2023, meaning that the new Chamber should meet before 29 November. 2023, 14 days after the election, scheduled for November 15.

That would leave about a year and a quarter for Mian Nawaz to return and complete his legal cases, as long as he can campaign freely. Of course, he has less time, because he would like to be free for the election, not for the meeting of Parliament. Of course, electoral reforms are also sought, although the required legislation has not been proposed, let alone passed.

One problem that everyone seems to dodge is that Mian Nawaz and Imran are not young men. Mian Nawaz is 75, while Imran will turn 70 next March. Therefore, neither can afford to wait and are both in a rush. This will lead them both to the kind of haste that will make mistakes. And neither can afford to wait for the other, as Bilawal Bhutto Zardari can.