Every cause needs its martyr and for a moment it appeared as if Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf was about to get one in the preceding week. Mr. Khan, the party Chairman, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on life during his long march and the march itself since then has largely dissipated, at least for the time being. For days the rally was travelling on GT Road, through the heartland of Punjab in an attempt to galvanize the people into coming out and travelling to Islamabad to lay siege to the federal government bastion. Mr. Khan intended to put pressure on the establishment and the federal government to call early elections and gain some leeway into who will take the most important post of Army Chief at the end of this month. Whether these objectives could be achieved through such tactic, given the generally lethargic attitude of the Pakistani population for any political cause was always in doubt. Not surprisingly, a less than desired response coupled with the extended duration of the march had substantially weakened its intensity by the time of the assassination attempt.

While discussions and investigation goes on as to who is behind this heinous crime, it has allowed IK a face saving exit by calling off the long march but gaining greater public attention at the same time. He has smartly utilized this opportunity to put further pressure on the establishment and the federal government by blaming them for the assassination attempt with names of the prime minister, interior minister and a senior officer of the country’s premier intelligence agency included in the list of masterminds. Indeed it is not outside the realm of possibility in Pakistani politics to believe that both the accused may have had a role in this attack. At the same time the theory that this was all staged to gain a graceful exit and a chance to put further pressure to meet Mr. Khan’s demand cannot be discarded altogether. And as has happened so many times before in the checkered history of our country, the investigation and prosecution into this case, like so many high profile cases before it is most likely to lead us nowhere.

Nonetheless, it is more of interest to the general public as to what implication this attempt shall have on the political and economic future of the country in the days to come. Firstly it doesn’t appear that any sudden shocks will be felt by the country’s economy since the risk of political instability has already been factored in by most segments such as exchange rate, stock markets and the bond market. Macroeconomic factors like current account deficit and dollar inflows from IMF and WB are more important with regards to stocks and exchange rate rather than the conflict of political parties. Secondly, the provincial and federal governments have not been much affected by the long march and its related antics unlike at the start of the year when the Punjab government was constantly changing due to judicial interference and political conflict. Back then all workings of the provincial setup were completely paralyzed which was also effecting the economics of the country as a whole due to huge share of Punjab in the national economy. In the current scenario however, the political and administrative set up continues to function and the governments can continue with official business and development work while implementing whatever necessary reforms for economic stability. Even recently the provincial governments have signed new agreements with the World Bank for financing of new projects which is an example of the lack of any adverse effect.

As far as the country’s political situation goes, the results are same as those on the economic front. For the time being it seems that no amount of long marches, protests and assassination attempts will convince the government to announce early elections. The PML-N led coalition has already undertaken painful reforms that have cost it big on the electoral front. It has lost almost all by elections since coming to power due to the difficult economic conditions facing the country. PTI on the other hand has been completely rejuvenated and appears to be the most popular party in Punjab as well. Now that some economic stability has been achieved the government will attempt to carry out some development work in order to gain votes in the 2023 general elections. It can only do so by completing its tenure and elections happening in October of next year. In between, it also intends to have some say in the appointment of the army chief during current month which will have great ramifications for the next three years at least for any political setup that post elections in October 2023. Thus it is hard to imagine a scenario in which regardless of Mr. Khan’s efforts, the current coalition government will step down. Such tactics are also unlikely to effect the establishment in any way as well. Mr. Khan has already driven a wedge far too big between him and the establishment for it to be mended in the short term. He has spoken openly against establishment throughout the heartland of Punjab, accusing them of involvement in a foreign backed cipher-conspiracy to overthrow his government and in the conspiracy to take his life. Thus regardless of who is the next occupant of the throne, it is highly unlikely that any direct olive branch of the kind Mr. Khan is hoping for will be offered to him in the coming days.

So it seems that the “Game of Thrones” that our national politics resembles the most, shall continue its somewhat successful showings at different locations across the country. The viewership may vary but it will continue to enthrall the hearts and minds of the people of this country, who otherwise have little else to be occupied with. And no surprise either that Pakistan is perhaps the only country in the world, where politics enjoys higher TV ratings then sports.

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