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Last Ditch Battle

Qamar Bashir

By: Qamar Bashir

The dynamics of the political landscape in Pakistan are shifting rapidly. PTI has introduced new strategies and pieces, while the other party is making desperate moves to stay in the game, fearing the loss of its most effective and lethal piece, the judiciary that has previously demonstrated the ability to eliminate even the most powerful opponents. However, it still retains two powerful pieces: the parliament and the executive. Despite their inherent strength, these have been significantly weakened due to alleged credibility, legitimacy, and legality issues.

Earlier, the secured resourceful, all powerful and fortified king, the supra executive having three  most powerful pieces; the parliament, the judiciary and the executive on its side, successfully cornered and imprisoned the PTI’s king and was sure of its success until the judiciary decided to part ways and reclaimed its independence.

 The incarcerated king, like a punching bag of steel, refused to bend, break, intimidate, or harass. He knew very well that he had been captured and delinked from its pawns and power pieces, but not yet defeated. He made clever defensive moves and allowed the other party to attack him relentlessly, using him like a punching bag. As a sportsman of the highest caliber, he perhaps knew that his rival would soon punch itself out, expending so much energy in its attacks that it would be exhausted, potentially leading to its own downfall or giving the opponent a chance to recover and counterattack.

The PTI was strengthened by the judiciary’s increasing independence from the executive, raising the stakes higher. The judiciary began exercising its independence which was reflected in its decision notably on April 1, when the Islamabad High Court suspended jail sentences of Imran Khan and Bibi in the state gifts case. The Lahore High Court restored Imran Khan’s interim bail in seven cases related to the May 9 riots and suspended his 14-year jail sentence. In May 2024, the Islamabad High Court granted bail to Imran Khan in the 190 million pounds corruption case, in which he and his wife were accused of receiving land worth billions of rupees as a bribe from a real estate tycoon. The real estate tycoon, who was in the past an ardent supporter of the supra executive, refused to testify against the PTI chairman, showing defiance.

The PTI, which had lost all hope in the lower or superior judiciary, suddenly found itself on another pedestal, reinvigorating its hopes and inspiration for securing the release of its supreme leader and reactivating the PTI as a party, further strengthening its position on the political chessboard.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s interim bail was extended in the May 9 vandalism case, Asad Umar received an extension on his interim bail in connection with the same incident, and Fawad Chaudhry was released. Hamad Azher, a young intelligent and fiery leader came out of hiding on the instruction of former Chairman PTI to lead the political side of the party, Shibli Faraz, a close associate and trusted friend of Chairman  PTI was reactivated. After going through the worst form of persecution; physical, psychological, emotional, financial and economic, most of the leadership and their supporters have become resilient and are no more afraid of use of kinetic means to harass or intimidate them.

PTI’s active engagement to craft a unified forum to confront the parliament and the executive on the results of the 2024 Election and to reclaim their lost mandate has added another significant dimension to the existing complexity of the political scenario.

With the government in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, the PTI has access to the province’s resources. The leadership, which has been persecuted, will find safe haven in KP province. They will have official resources to amplify their message and to execute political rallies, public meetings, and other agitational maneuvers without the fear of arrest and persecution. Moreover, they can frustrate the federation’s attempts to muzzle the PTI, at least in KP Province.

The defiant, ardent and courageous moves by the PTI is gaining a lot of traction in the traditional and social media both domestic and international. Social media has become a powerful tool for PTI to amplify its narrative and challenge the narrative of its rival. PTI leadership have learned the art and craft to connect with the public, bypassing traditional media filters and presenting their unfiltered narrative.

PTI has been using Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are also used from inside and outside the country despite its internet slow down and banning X to mobilize supporters, organize rallies, and create a sense of community among PTI followers, maintaining high levels of enthusiasm and participation.  PTI leverages social media to counter the narratives presented by the army and other political opponents by quickly responding to allegations, sharing alternative viewpoints, and highlighting inconsistencies. Additionally, viral campaigns, including memes, videos, and hashtags, are used to spread the party’s message and dominate online discussions.

The odds are even more complicated on the supra-executive side. In Balochistan and KP, insurgent and anti-federation elements harbor grudges against the army. Many political parties, skeptical of the 2024 election results, are now openly criticizing the supra-executive. The inter-institutional sentiment, particularly after the Bahawalnagar incident, has created tension between the police and the army. Additionally, the repatriation of illegal Afghans and the enforcement of strict border control have led to unusual border tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Social media is filled with criticism of the army, which, despite the inherent strengths of the supra-executive, has posed significant challenges to it.

As the game approaches its final stages, where a winner may emerge or there might be a draw, every move becomes crucial. A draw could benefit both parties but would result in handing over the parliament and the executive to PTI as part of an agreed deal. Those who were in the parliament and executive on the basis of flawed and rigged Form 47, now assume the status of the opposition will play a new round of chess game. featuring PTI and a supra executive on one side, and PML(N), PPP, and MQM on the other. Although this scenario has a slim chance of materializing, in the realms of chess and politics, anything can happen. 

Another scenario is more scary where one party wins, and the other refuses to accept defeat. This would lead the country into another prolonged chess game, potentially adding many layers of complexity on political, financial and economic challenges faced by the nation, and yet another round of miseres inflicted on the people of the country.

By: Qamar Bashir

Former Press Secretary to the President

Former Press Minister to the Embassy of Pakistan to France

Former MD, SRBC






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