FeaturedNationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 02

Dialogue, spirit of accommodation the only out of political impasse

Pakistan today presents the picture of a house deeply divided. Political polarization has reached a fever pitch with no light blinking at the end of the tunnel right now. The ruling PDM combine and the main opposition party, PTI, are at daggers drawn.

The last few weeks were taken up with the high drama, wild speculation and mindless kite flying surrounding the appointment of a new army chief. Thankfully, the matter was amicably resolved. Imran Khan’s long awaited march also came to a peaceful end. However, the overhanging political uncertainty is far from over.

The government and the opposition are poles apart in their thinking and approach which has created an atmosphere of extreme political instability and uncertainty in the country.  Since 1971, Pakistan has never been as dangerously polarized as today. The judiciary is also generally perceived to be divided, while the establishment’s role has been a subject of public debate and endless TV talk shows.

While the politicians are in a fractious mood, the economy is caught up in an inexorable process of meltdown. Prices have rocketed sky high, while electricity charges have gone beyond the paying capacity of consumers. The rupee is in a free fall against the dollar. The spectre of a default is staring us in the face.

Needless to say, increasing political instability is aggravating the economic crisis. On the other hand, the government is proving unequal to the task of governing. It’s a double whammy for the nation – political instability and confrontation coupled with increasing economic woes. Divisive politics has distracted attention from the country’s rapidly deteriorating economic situation. The stand-off between the Centre and opposition-controlled provinces has further complicated matters.

Imran Khan’s popular appeal is increasing by the day because he is raising issues which are close to the people’s hearts. His task has been made easy by the economic mess which has gripped the country during the last few months and which the PDM government has not been able to solve. Since his ouster, Imran Khan has been mobilizing the masses in favour of his demand for an early general election. His public meeting in Rawalpindi last week once again drew large crowds which further steeled his determination to carry on with his political battle for an early election.

At this moment, we need a strong and stable government to steer the country through its present hour of crisis. It is time for all stake-holders to realize that they should play their part to cool things down. Imran Khan should moderate the strong language he uses to lambast his opponents. On its part, the PML-N too is not doing the needful to bring down the political temperature. In this context, the use of excessive force, filing of repetitive cases and arrest of PTI stalwarts have done much to embitter the political climate in the country.

The country needs a respite from all this. The situation calls for a bipartisan approach and application of the collective wisdom of the nation to tackle the problems facing Pakistan. The crying need of the hour is to hold a grand national dialogue and promote peace and reconciliation so that all political forces in the country, instead of fighting all the time, cooperate together to face the biggest challenge in the life of this nation.

An agreement between the government and the PTI on a timeframe for the next elections can go a long way to extricate the country from its present state of unrelieved tension and confusion. For such a denouement, both sides must show flexibility and concede some ground. A spirit of accommodation can pave the way for holding the next polls in a peaceful and orderly way.

It is time to close ranks and foster a spirit of peace and harmony in the country. We must not forget that a breakdown of democracy as a result of the present chaos may mark the unravelling of the existing political order, with the crisis of politics turning into a crisis of the State. That will be a tragedy. There is need for all the stake-holders to realise that politics is not a game of gladiators in which there is a thin dividing line between victory and death.

It’s time for restraint and moderation in order to move the country towards stable democracy and economic prosperity. Endless political feuds and pursuit of narrow partisan interests may cause incalculable harm to Pakistan. National unity, not ceaseless political confrontation, is the need of the hour. All political forces must join hands to forge a unified national front against the internal and external challenges. If urgent action is not taken to defuse the spiraling crisis, the possibility of a civil commotion like the ones in Egypt and Sri Lanka cannot be discounted. In such an eventuality Pakistan and its people will be the ultimate losers.

At this critical juncture, a historic responsibility rests on the shoulders of President Alvi. As a symbol of the State he can play the role of a moderator and peace maker by bringing all stake-holders to the negotiating table and using his good offices to find a win-win solution to the ongoing crisis.