The Prime Minister’s lunch with the allies of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government, an event intended as a show of power to the rival opposition group Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), had some interesting takeaways that might become relevant in the upcoming weeks. However, the event, which could have had more promise, did not have the impact the government wanted to.

One of the important factors was the Prime Minister’s statement, that the PTI government wanted to have a dialogue with the opposition, but that talks were halted because the latter keeps on pushing for an NRO-like deal. While this statement might not seem much, it is still a shift from the completely unyielding and uncompromising stance that the Prime Minister had held before regarding the opposition. Perhaps the PDM’s showing in its rallies, or just the second wave of the pandemic, may have softened the government’s stance a bit, or at least led it to realise that if it wants to push legislation through, it needs to at least try to allow talks with the opposition.

However, the luncheon was not really intended to showcase a softening posture towards the opposition; it was meant to be a show of power to pressurise the PDM to break away from the opposition effort. If that was the intention, it did not live up. The elephant in the room was the absence of PTI’s most important ally, PML-Q, who refused to attend because as Moonis Elahi tweeted, “PML-Q’s alliance with PTI government is limited to vote and luncheon is not included in it.”

Whether this will break the unity of the PDM is debatable, but this luncheon did show disunity amongst the ruling coalition. As time carries on, if the government is unable to address the issues of its allies, PDM will look all the more appealing for those aggrieved by the PTI’s uncompromising stance. Perhaps it is time for some introspection.