Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and its chairman Imran Khan are firmly caught between the horns of a dilemma. On one hand, the Panama Papers has given the party a bona fide issue with which to pressurise the government and increase its own popularity. On the other, the only way it knows how to push the matter – through populist street agitation – finds little traction with the public.
What is the captain to do? Imran Khan didn’t endear himself to the people with the disruption caused by the previous ‘dharna’, and the worsening security situation has overshadowed every other political debate. Not only that, even if he tries to drag the spotlight towards himself, he will be - and already has been – criticised for being selfish and un-attuned to the needs of the public. Everyone agrees; Pakistan has to focus on the battle against extremism.
But we must recognise that Imran has a point too. The Panama Papers raised serious concerns about the financial dealings of the Sharif family. There is a prima facie case of tax evasion, and the ruling party’s subsequent behaviour – delaying and bogging down the debate over the Terms of Reference (ToR) for a judicial commission – makes it seem guiltier than it actually might be. Tax evasion too is a national issue – especially if the Prime Minister and his family are involved.
Inevitably, the only option left for the party is to compromise – even if it means releasing the head of steam that it had been building for itself over the past few months. While all of us are aware of how loath the PTI chairman is to retreat, it does seem that that his party maybe exploring other possibilities.
On Friday, during a meeting of the party leadership held at the Bani Gala residence of Imran Khan, the party decided to file a reference with the speaker of the National Assembly for the de-seating of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as a member of the assembly. The charges; hiding assets. It is almost a copy of the reference filed by the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) MNAs against Imran Khan – and being so, the Speaker is forced to deal with them equally.
This seems like a better move, the PTI continues to push a legitimate subject, while letting the rest of the government machinery tackle terrorism. As time consuming as they are, legal and constitutional methods are Imran Khan’s only hope.
Unfortunately for PTI, the Speaker is Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of the PML-N. The chances of securing the Prime Ministers removal through this particular move may be low, but at least his own reference would be equally stalled.