Who will blink first: the establishment, Imran Khan, or PDM?

The establishment is such a vague term for a layman yet influential in terms of the policy. In the USA, it does not matter if the president is a democrat (Biden, Obama) or a republican (Trump or Bush). Protecting Israeli interests is kept at the forefront of the American policy by their establishment. For example, the aid towards weaponising Israel against Palestinians has gone up by more than 50% (from around $21B to $38B) in the last two decades, according to BBC. Ironically, the Pakistani establishment derives its foreign policy footprint from American policy. For example, Imran khan just had to say ‘ABSOLUTELY NOT’ to the provision of bases to America against Afghanistan, and he was ousted. Bhutto was treated no differently when he suggested an independent Islamic financial system. Therefore, depending on the financial muscle of a country, its establishment could behave independently (America) or always follow the guidelines from the government controlling its financial independence (Pakistan).

Pakistan has always been a dark horse or unpredictable in terms of many avenues. For example, it is among the few countries in the world that moved their capital; its cricket team can beat the best teams globally and lose to the team at the bottom of the chart. Pakistani politics is no different either. Imran Khan has proved that a political duopoly can be convincingly broken in a democratic system with an organic grassroots level party. However, the establishment has seen it as a problem due to Imran khan being an independent thinker against the status quo. Many believe he was denied an opportunity to the power corridors in the 2013 election due to his strong rhetoric of stopping American drone strikes within Pakistan. Nevertheless, in 2018, he managed to acquire the majority seats in the centre and two provinces due to better-organised polls. It will be interesting to see what happens now that the establishment has ousted him with the help of all the opposition political parties.

Imran khan has always been treated as an Achilles heel by the establishment because he has broken the status quo. He has politically created awareness and attracted the millennials to join him in his political struggle who are in the majority, according to the tribune. In the past few weeks, he has gathered unprecedented crowds wherever he held a political gathering, putting a strain on the establishment’s rhetoric. These vast gatherings have proven that he can attract widespread support even in the face of opposition from a significant part of the media, government machinery and all the opposition parties. Today (20th May 2022), he has pledged to announce the date of his march to the capital with 2 million people if the government do not announce fresh elections.

Simultaneously, the government is struggling to stand on their two feet as the economic challenge is so severe that it cannot take any decisions amid populous backlashes. The strategic reserves have dwindled from $22B to around $15B in weeks. Suppose petrol, diesel, and electricity prices are not raised swiftly. In that case, the IMF will not sign an agreement to release the remaining money for the program. The absence of decision making from Mr Shahbaz Sharif’s government is making things even worse by the second. Moreover, the Supreme court has taken notice of FIA’s transfers and postings after deciding on votes of members of parliament who left for the opposition. Therefore, ambitious plans of the current government to weaken their cases in FIA or hold onto power in Punjab have been dented seriously.       

So now it’s a matter of time before one of the parties blinks. The establishment has been trying to stay neutral to facilitate the political process, but it is not working. Imran khan is putting pressure on both to announce the election, and PDM is trying to hold on to their weak mandate. The first few rounds have favoured Imran khan, but the party is not over yet.

The Writer Bilal Awan is a British-Pakistani linguist, academic and social commentator living and working in Saudi Arabia. Thinking out of the box and being persistent with the thought is the key to success in life.