With the ‘Azadi March’ nearing, sloganeering about changing the ‘Nizam’, the end of dynastic politics, election rigging conspiracies, and talks of midterm elections are abound with every passing day. Which political parties and leaders will jump on the bandwagon as the “big day of change” nears will be an interesting plot in this unfolding political drama. Will the police bring out their batons, will it be an extended sit down, can something like this cause an elected government to fall, or will it all end in anti-climax? With all the questions and a veritable alphabet’s soup of possibilities, let’s sift through the scenarios and see how the drama will unfold.
While the PTI has been the major proponent behind the latest slew of charges, the PPP and MQM have maintained a safe distance, but many speculate that their silence is more of a negotiating tactic rather than any solid commitment to the democratic process. In the short run, such parties gain more leverage with the federal government, while keeping their options open to switch sides in the months ahead.
One likely participant of the Azadi march is the demagogue Dr. Qadri, whose zealous followers have proven they can cement a sit down, even though his ‘Yazedi’ narrative could do with a re-write. The revolution from Canada that came in business class and travels in heavily guarded convoys keeps amusing the Pakistani public. While Dr. Qadri’s agenda is much greater than becoming the PM of Pakistan, he is already the self-styled Shaykh ul Islam, but is aiming for the Ameer Ul Mominin of the “Universe.”
Next up are the Q league members; who may not be able to bring along a hundred protestors, perhaps a thousand, or none at all. Their agenda is to somehow hit the opportunist jackpot yet again, which means they believe that through sheer luck and tenacity, the “Establishment” may yet again give them a role at the center of things.
Now coming to The Great Khan, the savior of Pakistan, who has taken it upon himself to decide that the general elections were rigged and that midterm elections are the only way forward to save democracy. The cat is out of the bag. Constitutionally speaking this can easily happen if the Prime Minister decides to step down and dissolves the assembly, or if the PML-N are voted out in the national assembly. If there is a third way that exists within the law of the land and /or the constitution, I’m unaware of it.
Given the accomplished actors listed above, it promises to be a fascinating season finale. Here are the possible scenarios that could decide the outcome, but be warned almost all of them are spoilers.
Scenario 1: Imran Khan’s PTI and allies go for a long peaceful sit-down in Islamabad and demand the PML N government resign on the basis of governance failures and election rigging. If the government does not comply to simply leave office, the PTI wouldn’t want the sit down to devolve into a pointless showdown between their supporters and the police. After all, since midterm elections are the real goal, the PTI may just resign from their 34 national assembly seats, 55 KPK assembly seats and 30 Punjab assembly seats giving a few new demands and a deadline. If the government once again does not comply as the demands are really from the judicial system, and the PTI members decide to follow IK’s lead and actually do resign from office en masse, elections will take place on the vacant seats within 60 days as required within the law. The PTI will be cornered and powerless along the sidelines. Elections will take place with PTI boycotting them, and the PML N will continue on the grounds that 10% of the electoral college of Pakistan should not suppress the elected 90% who will want to complete their tenure. While legally justifiable, the moral legitimacy of democracy in Pakistan will take a huge blow, not to mention the regional aspirations of the KPK people who elected Khan’s PTI to lead them till 2018.
Scenario 2: Here, it is the PTI, TUQ & Q League vs. PML N in a street power showdown with the police and other law enforcement agencies on the 14th of August, or whenever the PTI resigns from the assemblies. This all out antagonism will be a ploy to de-stabilize the political process, de-legitimize the elected government and pressurize the military leadership to perform its scared duty to intervene by a) telling PTI and others to settle down or b) abrogate the constitution and take over for the sake of ‘national security’. As other pillars of the state go, the independent judiciary could act to reinstall the PML N Government but in the face of military pressure and precedence this seems unlikely. Two things can then happen: (1) the On-going Sharif is replaced with a Khaki Sharif for good, or (2) the Khaki Sharif holds fresh and ‘fair’ elections in three months. If the Khaki Sharif happens to like his new digs, that is it for democracy in Pakistan. If new elections occur, regardless of questions of fairness and legitimacy, the PTI might (a big might) win a majority or form a coalition government, especially if certain parties are disqualified from taking part. But the PML N and other members of the opposition could use exactly the same routine to keep the cycle of destabilization going and dismiss governments every couple of years. These musical chairs usually lead right back to the Khaki Sharif option, at the cost of losing billions in FDI, the cancellation of huge power projects that are underway and a diminished hope of our economic resurgence for the next 20 years. Will the PTI be appreciated for this journey? Will they even be able to deliver, or will we go through all this for promises which should be coming true in KPK today?
Scenario 3: As an idealist, one usually hopes for a happy ending. If election reform is the agenda, the PTI may actually try working with other parties in the National Assembly to bring about genuinely needed election reforms in the country. Once the operation against the TTP is successful, the PTI will have three years in a vastly improved security situation to perform extraordinarily in the KPK, prove itself as a party of change and reform, and can very conceivably win with a 2/3 majority in the election 2018. But as endings go, this one requires a lot of hard work and grit; it’s much easier to team up with opportunistic allies like the Q league, TUQ and others to defeat our democracy and demand a leg up from the military than work it out using our system and institutions.

 The writer is a LUMS graduate with a deep eye on politics.

ihsaan@saahilwood.com.pk