There are some key lessons which Pakistanis must learn from the recent political crisis that started with the bringing of a no-confidence vote against former Prime Minister Imran Khan in March last and his ultimate ouster on April 9.
The political crisis in Pakistan could be summarized: transpiring of an international conspiracy to remove PM Imran Khan for pursuing an independent foreign policy; the collusion of the U.S., the alleged sponsor of the conspiracy, with the then Pakistan opposition parties; disallowing of the no-confidence motion by the National Assembly deputy speaker under Article 5 of the Constitution; an advice by PM Khan to President Arif Alvi to dissolve the National Assembly; calling of fresh elections by the President, the Supreme Court of Pakistan taking suo motu action on the ruling of the NA deputy speaker, declaring it unconstitutional, ordering an immediate vote count on the opposition’s no-confidence; resistance shown by the then Prime Minister to delay counting; some behind-the-scenes role of the security establishment; opening of the Supreme Court and Islamabad High Court at midnight to deal with any eventuality; sudden resignation of NA Speaker Asad Qaiser; success of the no-confidence motion; removal of Mr. Khan as Prime Minister; election of Shehbaz Sharif as new Prime Minister; the PTI taking to the streets and the party tendering resignations en bloc from the National Assembly.
The foremost lesson which we Pakistanis must learn from the political crisis and events associated with it is that the country’s political system, instead of being a part of the solution of the crisis is, in fact, a part of the crisis. In other words, Pakistan’s parliamentary political system has been giving birth to crisis after crisis for society. Since 1988, the year in which democracy was restored in Pakistan after a long martial law of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, apart from the government of Nawaz Sharif (1997-1999), which had a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, no other government could attain a clear majority in the assembly. It is because the powers-that-be have been calling the shots from behind the scenes and by pulling the strings ensuring that no political party government has full control. Consequently, whichever government takes the saddle has to rely on small parliamentary groups to remain afloat. Therefore, every government has to focus more on appeasing the small coalition partners than to work for the welfare of the people or demonstrate good governance. So none of the government could implement even half of its respective electoral manifesto. The situation we typically have seen in the latest political crisis. The PTI government was spending much of its time to keep the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) appeased besides some independent MPs. Now when 13 parties including former opposition groups and the MQM and BAP have formed a new government, the government’s only agenda is to keep itself intact. The only purpose of keeping the government intact would be to get perks and privileges and to bring about some key legislative changes, like revoking electronic voting. In a nutshell, the parliamentary political system is not the panacea for the innumerable ills of our society.
The second lesson which must be learnt from the political crisis in Pakistan is that political parties are only there for power politics instead of playing their role as ruling and opposition parties to serve the people and work for the stability of the country. In other words, the ruling parties want to keep their power intact by any means and the opposition parties cherish to assume power by hook or crook, even by violating the Constitution. In the situation, we cannot have a stable political system that is designed to serve the people, deliver key services to the citizens and address their main issues, the purpose of any successful political system.
The third important lesson which the political crisis in Pakistan has taught us is the theory of separation of powers which is enshrined in the Constitution and is the essence of any workable democracy and federation but it has little place in Pakistan. In this regard, the interference of political actors in the operations of the judiciary is a case in point. Importantly, when the higher judiciary was carrying out proceedings on the constitutionality of the act of the deputy speaker and was determining the constitutionality of the acts of Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi, the media and public sphere was awash with comments by political activists and leaders instructing the superior judiciary, on the one hand, to declare the acts unconstitutional and on the other, to endorse them. On its part, the judiciary also set no good example by taking suo motu action on the issue of the ruling of Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, when the opposition parties were just there on the doors of the Supreme Court to submit a petition challenging the ruling. Then the verdict of the Supreme Court declaring the ruling of Mr. Suri, PM Khan and President Alvi unconstitutional without going into the background of the causes of giving such a ruling by the deputy speaker, despite that the latter had mentioned the constitutional provision under which he was empowered to give such a ruling. Moreover, the stringent decision by the court in which the National Assembly speaker was ordered to even hold the session of the House at such and such time and to take up voting on the no-confidence motion without affording an opportunity to the MPs to deliberate upon the motion has not set a good example within the context of the Article 69 of the Constitution in which the parliamentary proceedings cannot be challenged and any other state institution cannot instruct the National Assembly on its internal procedures. Then, the military despite declaring that it is a totally apolitical institution and shall not be dragged by politicians and the media into political affairs, which is absolutely very good. However, at the same time the military spokesman said the establishment had been approached by the PTI government to work to diffuse the situation. In this regard, according to the military spokesman, three options were presented to Imran Khan. The military leadership should not have even accepted any mediatory role because it unnecessarily made its role controversial.
Another lesson which we learn from the political crisis is the highly irresponsible manner the Pakistan mainstream media, what to say of alternative or social media, covered and reported the events and developments. Most TV channels tried to sensationalize the events by taking clear sides. The media ought to serve the public interest instead of vested interests.