No Middle Ground in Pakistan

Following Pakistan's recent elections, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) won a majority with Imran Khan at its helm. Raosen Taj Raisani examines the future of Pakistani politics under the uncompromising PTI.


In the words of George R.R. Martin “When you play a game of thrones you win, or you die”. In our game death comes in a figurative sense. The political gameplay from the conclusion of Pakistan’s election is at its peak. The game is being played by the winner, but the losers are not dead yet.

The figurative death is the idea of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). PTI has promised a lot. It markets itself as a party that cares for youth and believes in progress. It has promised to provide overweening reforms in the economic sector. It has also emphasized advanced changes in services structure, employment opportunities and amenities provided. Creation of new provinces is another insolvable issue, which has extreme repercussions for the political fabric. These are monumental initiatives. They are close to incredibility, but can PTI achieve it all? If it can, it will be no less than a miracle. A miracle that many Asian countries have achieved but through perseverance and fidelity. If it cannot, therein lies death.

The vultures have been circling since the day elections ended. The opposition parties have categorically rejected the result of elections. Some are baring their teeth for the streets while others are preparing for grave resistance in parliament. There will not be a day that opposition sits quiet and nor will there be a decision that will be allowed to come to fruition. The government should expect the worst experience of governing. This is, to say the least, a tough nut to crack.

The successive governments have usually had some support in their decision making. In the last two, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had a coalition government and Pakistan Muslim League(N) (PMLN) had the tacit support of major parties. PTI has alienated all the major parties with diatribes and invectives. It has criticized in the strongest terms PPP, PMLN and various other parties. It has rejected the support of any of the old guard. This is a monster of their own making and it cannot be tamed easily. To have the support of any party, PTI needs adjustments to its overbearing verbal armor of not compromising.

This is the dilemma of governance. If PTI changes its stance on any issue, it must answer to its overcharged voters. If it does not change, governance can be difficult. This dilemma will be evident in each policy decision and in every governance protocol. The party will have to fight its way. There are a lot of tools in the opposition’s toolbox. No confidence motions, senate blockades, obstructions in law-making, budgetary problems are just some of the constitutional hurdles that the government will face. Street demonstrations can turn violent in any instance. In this environment, any spark will create a conflagration out of bound for this government to suppress.

What is then the way to govern? Without compromise, it may be impossible. This may be a problem for the PM-elect but not the second-tier leadership of PTI. From the day that the government is formed, conciliation should be the cure-all. The issue lies in the response of other parties. Will they follow? Would they help government for the sake of continuing democratic tradition? It is difficult but possible. It is possible if PM-elect focuses on the game, not the players. As personally as Imran Khan had attacked his opponents, nobody had done so in Pakistan earlier. Will his opponents pay it back with the same infuriating oratory? The answers are not black and white. The future seems bleak. There seems no middle ground and the middle ground is the only ground to play. Bat-on Prime Minister, your game has begun.

Raosen Taj Raisani is currently pursuing independent research in the constitutional and historical framework of Pakistani politics. He is a former research associate of LUMS and has a degree in Defence and Strategic Studies from QAU, Islamabad

Please note that opinions expressed in this article are solely those of our contributors, not of Political Insights, which takes no institutional positions.

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