NationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 10

Political crisis deepens

Finally the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has been able to dissolve its governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces along with the legislative assemblies of the provinces while threatening to bring a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in the National Assembly to force general elections along with polls for the two provincial assemblies in the country.

However, to preempt the PTI move to bring a no-confidence motion against the federal government of a 13-party alliance, led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the ruling coalition started accepting resignations of around 130 National Assembly members in batches. Ironically, previously the PTI has been demanding from National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Asharf to accept the resignation of its members. However, Speaker Ashraf in violation of all constitutional procedures and norms took the stance that he would accept the resignations one by one after meeting every PTI member individually and secretly asking them whether they had tendered resignation out of freewill. The PTI has been asking the speaker to accept its members’ resignations in order to aggravate the political crisis for the ruling alliance to force early general elections. Cognizant of the PTI strategy, the federal government, irrespective of all constitutional and legal procedures, refused to accept resignations of the PTI MNAs. The foremost reason for the ruling alliance hesitance to finalize resignations has been that the coalition has a majority of only a couple of votes in the National Assembly and it desired that a forward bloc could be created in the PTI MNAs and made them support the government so that it could not come down in case even a single coalition partner, even with a handful of seats, parts way with the government. Moreover, the ruling coalition has also been avoiding accepting the resignations of PTI MNAs because in the case the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has to hold by-elections within 90 days. Keeping in view the mammoth popularity of the PTI and its head and former Prime Minister Imran Khan and the results of previous by-elections on some of seats for the National Assembly, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies, since the coalition government came to power in April last in which the PTI swept, the government will face embarrassing defeats. This will further weaken the fledgling 13-party government.

The ruling coalition bigwigs, instead of accepting PTI’s MNAs resignations, have been asking the PTI to resume their membership of the National Assembly and play their constructive role in national politics. However, the ruling coalition was least sincere about constructive debate and dialogue with the PTI. This has now proven without doubt after accepting the resignations of dozens of PTI MNAs. So, the political crisis, which the ruling coalition wanted to escape, itself has pushed the country and itself into it. The speaker has started accepting resignations of PTI MNAs, which has deepened the political crisis in the country when Pakistan is on the brink of an economic default. Some economists argue that Pakistan has already defaulted. Thus, the government’s energies are concentrated on saving itself, which also is the most unpopular government of Pakistan’s history due to the hyperinflation which its policies have inflicted on the people.

On the other hand, the PTI dissolution of its governments in Punjab and KP also aimed at convoluting problems for the ruling coalition, which on one hand is facing a critical economic crisis and on the other, profound unpopularity for uniting to dislodge the government of the PTI in order to catapult itself to power through a conspiracy. For its part, the PTI strategy of dissolving Punjab and KP governments and legislative assemblies, there may be a very shrewd move to bring down the 13-party rule. But it is also personally and group-motivated. Nevertheless, there is a kernel in the PTI argument that it has no problem if the current coalition completes its rule till August 2023, but the question is of the country as it could not afford any more political crisis and economic collapse. However, the panacea which the PTI suggests to come out of the crisis is holding a new election as early as possible. This may be partially correct but not wholly true. Free, fair and transparent national elections as early as possible are necessary for pulling the country out of political uncertainty and further economic downslide but issues of the Pakistani state and society are such that they need fundamental, structural changes. Finding solutions to the complex state-society issues while remaining within the current parliamentary political system and its institutions is to cry for the moon. The country’s real decision-makers have to realize that enough is enough as the system is not delivering in terms of ensuring political and economic stability and security. Some may argue that the parliamentary political system has not been allowed in the true sense of the word to operate independently and continuously by the security establishment, international establishment and unscrupulous so-called national leaders and politicians to address key problems of the state and society. This is a shallow argument because the system needs a process of self-rectification and self-sustainability. In other words, the system must have what it takes to prevent forces including institutions and individuals that are the creation of the system to threaten the system itself.

Yet again the refusal and then sudden acceptance of PTI MNAs resignations by the ruling coalition, dissolving of its government in Punjab and KP by the PTI to force national elections through an aggravating political crisis in the country and for the ruling coalition and the government’s complete indifference and incapacity to deal with a historic economic crisis in the country reveal many loopholes in the parliamentary political system in vogue in the country. Today even federal and provincial ministers, like Khawaja Saad Rafique, call the current democracy in Pakistan as “disease-afflicted” and dominated by a few families. In this situation, it is obvious that remaining within the current parliamentary political system and using its tools of election stability, both political and economic, cannot be expected to come automatically. In this country we have tried every kind of a political system whether parliamentary democracy, quasi-democracy, hybrid regimes having a military and civilian admixture, outright military rule and dictatorial presidential system of General Ayub Khan. But all have failed to stabilize the country and put it on the path to development. The only system that we have not tried in Pakistan and which has all what it takes to address all its problems is a popularly-elected presidential system. Some argue that General Ayub Khan’s was a presidential system. This is a fundamentally fallacious argument because it was the person of Gen. Ayub and his dictatorial modus operandi which dominated the so-called presidential system. What we need in Pakistan is a kind of an American presidential system with its checks and balances to have political and economic stability. Sooner or later we have to come to this conclusion.