Since early this year there have been a chain of events in Pakistan which have fully exposed its political system, dynamics and shortcomings.
It started with the staging of protests and long marches against the then government of Prime Minister Imran Khan by the then opposition groups, like the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F). It was followed by the tabling of a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan in the National Assembly. As the opposition parties, including the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), did not have the required number of votes in the National Assembly to see the no-confidence motion succeed, a desperate and breakneck competition started by the opposition to woo and then purchase the loyalty of PTI’s Members of Parliament (MPs) and its coalition partners.
Then the entire world saw how the PPP-controlled Sindh provincial official secretariat in the federal capital, Sindh House, became a hub of business of selling and purchasing political loyalties. Many PTI MPs turned coat and the media openly reported it. However, no one took notice within state institutions.
Then the countdown began for the voting day for the no-confidence motion. The preceding days and weeks were nerve-wrecking for entire Pakistan. Sensing he was losing ground as unseen forces were also with the opposition parties, Imran Khan started blaming that his government was being ousted through a US-orchestrated conspiracy being executed by the opposition parties and unseen forces in Pakistan. In this regard, he cited US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu’s threat to Pakistani ambassador Asad Majeed in March in which he demanded Pakistan’s ‘state institutions’ to help dislodge the PTI government. The reason which Imran Khan then and has been giving for the US turning against his government is his undertaking a tour of Russia against the will of Washington. Imran Khan argued that he had visited Russia because Pakistan needed cheap oil and gas from Moscow in the face of a whopping increase in the prices of these items in the international market. However, before the day of voting, Imran Khan advised President Dr. Arif Alvi to dissolve the National Assembly and call fresh elections. It was very strange on part of Imran Khan because it was totally unconstitutional that a prime minister dissolves the assembly when a no-confidence motion has been tabled.
Although Dr. Alvi dissolved the National Assembly it was inadvisable. Ultimately, the Supreme Court as guardian of the Constitution took up the plea against the dissolution and ordered restoration of the assembly and directed the Speaker to hold counting on the no-confidence motion. However, the manner in which the court asked the National Assembly Speaker to hold a no-confidence vote with very stringent conditions also came under severe criticism. It was said that the Supreme Court had stepped into the domain of the parliament as directing the Speaker left huge question marks on the supremacy of the parliament. Nevertheless, the court order prevailed and the vote of no-confidence was held on April 8, resulting in its success.
However, the vote was earlier declared “unconstitutional” by the then Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri in a very strange manner. The situation brought the parliament and Supreme Court face to face. The vote of no-confidence against Imran Khan may have been successful but it left big question marks on the future of parliamentary supremacy in Pakistan. There is no doubt that in Pakistan’s Constitution there is a provision of judicial review under which the Supreme Court has the powers to review any law passed by the parliament to ascertain its constitutionality both itself and in case someone petitions it. However, the Constitution prevents anybody from stepping into the procedural business of parliament.
Although the government of Imran Khan and the PTI was voted out, the manner political loyalties were bought and sold and the way unseen forces called the shots fully exposed the loopholes of the parliamentary political system of Pakistan. It transpired that in the parliamentary political system, crossing the floor and becoming turncoats is institutionalized. This created serious political instability in Pakistan. Then Shehbaz Sharif became the chief executive with the support of 13 political parties, and the majority of only two votes. Such a weak government, which could fall any time save unseen forces forcibly keep it intact, has proved costly for Pakistan. There has been unprecedented inflation in the country which has touched a whopping 28 percent. Poverty has increased to never-seen levels in the country.
Amid all this, former Prime Minister Imran Khan has been demanding the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the ‘regime change’ bid by the US in Pakistan. However, his demands have so far fallen on deaf ears and, therefore, his allegations cannot be proven or rejected. This is another big exposition of the Pakistani political system that regimes can be changed but there is no remedy to investigate and prevent it in the future. This situation has also raised serious question marks on the sovereignty of the state.
The manner in which civil liberties and media freedom have been trampled upon in Pakistan in the last six months has reminded everyone that the existing political system is no guarantee to ensure fundamental rights of well-known Pakistanis let alone the common citizens. During this period, journalists have been silenced, TV channels put off air, social media activists rounded up, politicians abducted by state agencies and then tortured in custody, obnoxious videos of PTI leaders posted on the Internet.
The culmination point of full exposition of the weakness rather irrelevance of the existing parliamentary political system is an assassination attack on deposed but protesting former Prime Minister Imran Khan during his long march on November 3. The add insult to injury, the PTI has not been able to lodge the First Information Report (FIR) despite having its government in Punjab where the assassination bid was made, because of the criminal abetting of provincial police officials. When a former prime minister and head of the largest political party having its government in two of the four provinces could not lodge a police case as he has named Prime Minister Shebaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and a senior intelligence officer, then it was the last straw on the back of the parliamentary political system of Pakistan. The country needs a new social contract to avoid crisis and instability.