Long march fails to bring PM under pressure

March gives JUI-F chance to gauge major parties’ dependability

LAHORE - All eyes are focused these days on JUI-F-led opposition parties’ long march and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s health, the two issues that have the potential to influence the political scene.

The long march that started from Karachi on Sunday, after passing through various cities of the federating units, is scheduled to end at Islamabad on Thursday (Oct 31). The next line of action will be announced by the opposition leaders there.

That the prime minister should resign and go for fresh elections are the major demands being raised by the march participants.

Superfluous to point out that Maulana Fazlur Rehman is leading the march despite media reports a few days ago that he had met the military leadership and was told about dangers from the Eastern enemy and that destabilization of democratic system would not be tolerated.

In spite of this meeting the Maulana’s decision to go by his pre-announced schedule has raised some questions. For example, has he ignored the military leadership’s message? Is the JUI-F chief leading the march only as a face saver and ultimately will not create any problem for the government? What if the march doesn’t remain peaceful because of some agent saboteurs?

Adversity is raising PML-N’s ‘political platelets’

While the impact of the long march would be clear after it is wrapped up, for the time being Prime Minister Imran Khan appears to be under no pressure at all. His speech while laying the foundation stone of a new university at Nankana on Monday (only three days before the culmination of the march) is sufficient to explain the point.

He said the long march was not unexpected for him as he had said in his maiden speech after taking over as the country’s chief executive that a day would come when all ‘corrupt’ elements would get united against him. The use of the word ‘corrupt’ for his political adversaries at this juncture shows there is no change or flexibility in his thinking and that he is not afraid of their campaign.

The prime minister, in fact, was critical of Mian Nawaz Sharif (who is in a precarious condition at a local hospital) and some of his then cabinet ministers who were holding ‘Iqamas’ of another country despite being in power.

“Iqamas’, he alleged, had been obtained to cover up their involvement in money laundering. Holders of this document, he said, are treated as nationals of the host country, not Pakistan, and the governments concerned are not bound to share information about them with Islamabad.

He made it clear that he won’t give the corrupt leaders any NRO, implying that he would not condone their misdoings and would take them to task.

As for the health of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan said he did whatever was possible for him for the recovery of the ailing PML-N supremo.

He may be right in his assertion, but the adversity that the three-time former prime minister has been experiencing for the past several months will certainly affect the PML-N’s popularity graph. Already a sympathy wave is there and the party’s ‘political platelets’ will go up because of the situation the Sharifs have been facing at the hands of various state institutions.

It has been noticed that now not many people talk about the serious corruption charges against the Sharifs; Hassan, Hussain’s failure to face courts of law and their preference to stay put in London. Also, there is little mention of former finance minister Ishaq Dar, Shehbaz Sharif’s son Salman and son-in-law Imran who have been declared absconders as they are hiding in London and have no plans to return to the country.

This way, the PML-N is politically gaining from the situation. After all this the question is: what will be the result of the long march and what the opposition parties would gain from the long march?

Most observers are of the opinion that the long march will disperse peacefully. However, there are also others who think the political system may face a threat.

As for the major opposition parties, PPP and the PML-N, they got an opportunity to mobilize their workers in areas adjacent to the march route; for the JUI-F it was opportune time to gauge its own following and the dependability of the two major opposition parties in adverse situations. For the ANP and the PkMAP it would be like a warming up exercise.

To have an idea about the future situation, everybody will have to wait for Thursday.