Prime Minister Imran Khan is angry. He fired broadsides at his political opponents during a rally in South Waziristan in a sign that he will not be cowed down as criticism to his style of governance and the lacklustre performance of the federal government mounts. In a raucous speech, the prime minister even threw some salvos that were politically incorrect and misogynistic. The prime minister insists that he would not relent in pursuing corruption charges against the leadership of two main opposition parties. The fight against corruption is the raison d’être of his politics.

In his speech, Prime Minister Khan reiterated that corruption of past rulers was the primary cause of the current economic whirlpool. “When the money is laundered abroad, it creates the shortages of the dollar and leads to a devaluation of local currency and inflation, which hits the common man,” he said. It is simplistic and, some would argue, a half-baked diagnosis of the economic ails. But it was this simplicity of message and sincerity of intentions that, among some other factors, catapulted Imran Khan to become the prime minister. He remains on point. But critics say the prime minister is too focused on the rear-view mirror and not looking at the dangers ahead.

The manner of the sacking of Asad Umar, the former finance minister, and shuffling of a couple of other cabinet ministers gravely dented the party’s image. The idealism and optimism of the pre-election campaign have dissipated. The bubble has burst. Even staunch supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf are left red-faced, finding it difficult to defend the latest turn of events and repeated ‘slips of the tongue.’ The constant bashing of past governments has not helped to neutralize the rising discontent on the streets.

The shuffling of the deck in the federal cabinet has given the prime minister a breather. However, it is a temporary relief. Some cabinet ministers are already saying that they will be back in their previous positions within a few months. The internal party differences, conspiracies, and sniping are emasculating the government’s ability to perform. The ineptitude of the core team of the ruling party has come as a rude awakening.

The enormous economic challenges will hamper the prime minister’s reform and social welfare agenda and further fuel disgruntlement. Hafeez Sheikh, the new finance minister, has his work cut out as he attempts to turn around the economy when all indicators are showing a negative trend in the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, backstage manoeuvring and wheeling-dealing have started. In the first stage, Punjab is the focus of such intrigue. The chief minister Usman Buzdar is struggling to counter a barrage of criticism about his competence and ability. Calls for his ouster are gaining more and more resonance. Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar is also finding himself on slippery ground. It remains to be seen who comes out unscathed from the current political tumult that is brewing in Punjab. Powerful lobbies and power brokers inside and outside of politics are at play. PM Khan will have to take decisions about Punjab soon. The status quo is untenable; some changes are inevitable. Lingering the tough decision would cause further complications.

The opposition is gearing up for street agitation by June; political temperature is bound to rise in the summer. However, the opposition – barring a few religious figures – lacks the wherewithal to mount a sustained campaign of street protests. The new interior minister Brigadier Ijaz Shah (r) has already cracked the whip and hinted at dealing with the opposition with brute force.

Amid all this political uncertainty and instability, the peculiar speculation about the need for a presidential system of government has found further currency. The powerful security establishment is not averse to the idea – several top officials have been found praising the presidential system in private and semi-official settings. Supporters of Prime Minister Khan also see their salvation in the presidential order where he is free from the push and pull of allied political parties and incompetence of his party members.

The parliament has been reduced to a shouting arena. It echoes with inane and obscene potshots at political opponents and remains unable to carry out necessary legislation. There is a need to develop a political consensus. For now, neither of the sides is willing to sit together and initiate a political dialogue.

Prime Minister Khan feels such dialogue is unnecessary. It is tantamount to giving legitimacy to those he has branded and condemned as corrupt. His public posturing is increasingly aggressive and confrontational. He wants to crush the opposition entirely and totally. Also, he is frustrated with his team. No wonder he sounds angry.

The government’s detractors view the rising set of challenges and the continuous fumbling and faltering of the government as a gradual and slow retreat into a political dead end. It does not bode well for the democratic setup — a political logjam risks bringing the whole house down.