The political turmoil triggered by Imran Khan's call for new elections has disrupted conventional politics in the country. The ruling coalition maintains that it assumed power through a legitimate constitutional process, specifically a successful no-confidence motion in parliament, and despite low approval ratings, holds the mandate to fulfil its term until September of this year. Imran, however, remains steadfast in his demand and rejects any prospect of political dialogue.
Crucial questions emerge concerning the outcomes of early elections. Can they bring about stability? If Imran Khan fails to obtain an absolute majority, will he concede to the election results? In case he acquires a simple majority, what would deter him from resorting to street protests and resuming confrontational politics? Additionally, given the current situation with interim governments in two provinces and a ruling coalition opposed to Khan at the federal level, how can election results be undisputed?
The government is expressing increasing frustration with the way the judiciary has been handing out favorable verdicts to Khan. Officials say that the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) party (and its supporters within the previous Establishment, like former DG ISI ) engaged in a calculated plan to elevate judges in the high court and supreme court, ensuring a continuous stream of favorable rulings. The party also devised a strategy that enabled its lawyers' wing and supporters to physically assault the courts and intimidate and coerce judges of lower and high courts. In recent days, the party, known for having the most effective trolling and propaganda machine, has taken to social media platforms to post pictures of a sessions court judge and a senior ISI official. Khan's popularity and the fear of potential vindictiveness if he returns to power have forced many in the judiciary, bureaucracy, and media to either soften their stance or support PTI. Meanwhile, the ruling coalition is barely holding together due to the central government, with PM Shehbaz lacking full control. The PML-N party is also facing internal divisions, split between factions led by Shehbaz and Maryam Nawaz. The disjointed and divided reaction from the ruling coalition towards Imran Khan is enhancing his capacity to outwit and outpace them. Imran Khan has valid reasons to be concerned for his safety, especially after an assassination attempt last year. The police search operation at his Lahore residence while he was en route to Islamabad for a court appearance further intensifies the volatility and spitefulness in the country’s politics. After all, Maryam Nawaz could neither forgive nor forget the incident when her hotel room door in Karachi was forcibly opened back in 2020. A number of Western observers and officials are now also supporting the call for new elections. However, they advise Imran to tone down his rhetoric and engage with the Military Establishment. But will Imran heed such advice? He remains unyielding. In recent months, former army chief Gen Bajwa was his target. Now, Imran has shifted his focus to the current chief, as evidenced by his recent criticism of Gen Asim Munir in interviews with foreign media outlets. Without any political dialogue or reconciliation efforts, the situation is rapidly approaching a political stalemate. Ultimately, the politicians themselves will bear the brunt of this outcome.