Despite some serious challenges to the government throughout 2016, the Pakistan Muslim League-N government has demonstrated remarkable tenacity and creativity to ensure its stability. From quietly following the expectations of the GHQ to avoiding outright confrontation with the opposition, the government has shown that this time round the PML-N places utmost priority on completing its term in power before passing on the political baton to the next government.
Battle-hardened after dealing with the 2014 protests in Islamabad, the government has conducted itself with a strategy of riding every wave out instead of grappling with it. As 2016 draws to a close, the government seems to be riding out the ‘Panama-gate’ scandal smoothly into 2017.
Politics in other parts of the country seems to present a somewhat similar picture. Governments in all the provinces seems to be settling into their groove, a luxury that is still relatively new despite the fact that at least one government has completed a 5-year term in office. This stability is likely to give governments an increased level of confidence to pursue their black and white activities well into 2017. In Sindh, for example, despite pressure from the Rangers and the federal government, the appointment of Syed Murad Ali Shah as the new chief minister is likely to give a new lease of life to the government. That’s mainly because he more closely meets the expectations of the discontented people of Karachi in a way that Syed Qaim Ali Shah could never do.
Governance in Balochistan is business as usual, as the population continues to suffer under a weak central government. However, this is nothing contrary to what people expect in the restive province. As long as the military continues to take effective steps to control disruptive activities, the people are willing to tolerate the government. Bear in mind that Balochistan is probably the province closest to Islamabad as far as relations between the executive heads are concerned.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa could experience greater political change in 2017 than other parts of Pakistan. Undesirable outcomes of PTI’s protests against corruption, progress on the Panama accounts issue, and implementation of Imran Khan’s belated 13-point reform program could lead to shifts in political fortunes in the state. In fact, any dent in the PTI’s credibility would strengthen the status quo parties in the rest of the country, eliminating any possibility of elections in 2017.
Next year, 2017 could spell out the political fortunes of almost every party in the country. The credibility of the PTI depends largely on whether 2017 turns out to be an election year. If it does not, then the PML-N would gain the most from it and claim vindication. In such an event, relations with the PPP would also improve and the two parties would return to focus on their respective provinces. In conclusion, 2017 is an important year for the political future of Pakistan since it could set the course for strengthening the democratic stability of the country or signal a return to the instability of the 90s.
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