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Imran’s ultimatum

While Imran Khan has called off his long march through Pakistan, the former Prime Minister has palpably stiffened his stance by giving a six-day ultimatum to the government in Islamabad to dissolve the National Assembly and announce the date for fresh elections.

Statesman News Service |

While Imran Khan has called off his long march through Pakistan, the former Prime Minister has palpably stiffened his stance by giving a six-day ultimatum to the government in Islamabad to dissolve the National Assembly and announce the date for fresh elections. At another remove, the Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, has let it be known that the elected House will decide on the date for elections after completing its current term next year. No less critical than Imran’s appeal must be the fact that governance to the west of the Radcliffe Line has been in virtual limbo with the ouster of Imran Khan. In a word, the Shehbaz Sharif government lacks a popular mandate in a putative democracy. 

This is indubitable. In a speech on the floor of the lower house of parliament, Sharif attacked Pakistan Tekreek-i-Insaf and its leader, Imran Khan, for the acts of violence seen in the country. “I want to clarify to the leader of this group (PTI), your dictation won’t work. This House and the coalition government will decide when to hold elections in the country.” Given Sharif’s stout opposition, Imran’s ultimatum ~ not quite a dictation ~ to the government would seem to have hit the reefs. However, it is early days to hazard a guess as to whether Pakistan is headed for a renewed constitutional crisis. Following a busy day of political drama and violence across the country, Imran left for his palatial farmhouse in Bani Gala, Islamabad, after announcing the deadline. Scores of his supporters wondered what actually had happened that changed the entire political scene. Thousands of PTI supporters had arrived with preparations for a prolonged sit-in. “I was surprised when Khan announced the conclusion of the march,” said a supporter. 

Till late on Wednesday night, Islamabad’s high-security zone resembled a war zone. PTI supporters tried to counter the teargas shelling and the crack-down by security agencies with stones and sticks. Bus stations were set on fire as were green belts. As Islamabad was rendered out of joint, Imran could not reach the city’s red zone. He delivered his speech to his supporters at the city’s Jinnah Avenue on Thursday morning. “I have reached Islamabad after 30 hours of travelling from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The government tried every method to crush our Azadi March. 

However, I have seen the nation free itself of the fear of slavery,” he said. Imran claimed that three PTI activists had lost their lives in Karachi, two party workers were thrown off Ravi Bridge in Lahore, while thousands of others were arrested. “My message for the imported government is to dissolve assemblies and announce elections. Otherwise, I will come back again to Islamabad after six days.” The former Prime Minister appears to believe that his best chance of electoral success lies now, when there may be some, perhaps even considerable, momentum in his favour. But if that is so, his opponents will certainly stall for as long as they can.