NationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 20

Political crisis hurts Pakistan

The ongoing political crisis in Pakistan is not only unprecedented but it also has brought the country to a standstill. The 13-party ruling alliance is not ready to hold elections in Punjab and KP provinces while the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), facing all atrocities at the hands of the ruling alliance, is not ready to budge. On the other hand, the economic crisis has made the survival of the common people almost impossible while the country is on the brink of financial collapse.

Moreover, large-scale terrorist attacks by groups, like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), are taking its toll on the country. In this situation, the action of the ruling alliance to aggravate the crisis by taking to task the PTI and former Prime Minister Imran Khan instead of addressing the political, economic and security crisis may inflict irreparable damage on the country. This situation forces one to think that whosoever may be the perpetrator and whosoever faces the violence, the real target is Pakistan. So all national leaders, including politicians and top brass of state institutions, the superior judiciary, civilian bureaucracy and above all members of the intelligentsia in the academia and media must rise above their personalities to address the multidimensional issues facing the country. Otherwise, the future of the country looks bleak.

Today, the biggest dilemma of Pakistan is that its decision-making has been left to people, particularly in the political arena, most of whom have been well-known for anti-Pakistan rhetoric and agenda. By pushing the country to crisis after crisis by the government, it seems that it is a deliberate act to delay elections and stop the PTI from coming to power again as at the moment the latter is the most popular party of Pakistan. However, holding elections is a constitutional requirement and it has to be adhered to anyway, if we have to remain within the ambit of the Constitution. If the government and its institutions are hell-bent upon violating the Constitution and rule the country whimsically then we have in Pakistan’s history the examples of four martial laws of General Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan, General Zia-ul-Haq and General Musharraf and the civilian martial law of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The ECP and the ruling coalition have already violated the Constitution by delaying the scheduled elections in Punjab and KP provinces and its leaders are also openly criticising judges of the superior judiciary and if using its powers it holds the Constitution in abeyance, then it may not be a surprise. One has full faith in the superior judiciary that while acting on the basis of justice, the very basis of its existence, it will dispense justice to each and everyone and punish the violators of the Constitution by awarding exemplary punishment to them.

It appears that the PTI is being targeted by the ruling alliance as its popularity could sweep traditional parties, like the PML-N, PPP, ANP, MQM etc. However, it must be noted that the PML-N and the PPP although may have been described as ‘national level’ parties but the term is most often used incorrectly without keeping the political history in view. Here, it must be noted that except for the 1997 general elections, when the PML-N got a two-thirds majority that too in a highly-suspected manner, it has always been limited to Punjab province electorally. On the other hand, the PPP except the 1970 elections, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) led the party to a majority in West Pakistan and only came to power after the dismemberment of then East Pakistan to become Bangladesh, the party came to power in a crisis-like situation. Otherwise, the party never got a comfortable majority in 1988, 1993, 2008 when it won elections. It only obtained a majority in Sindh and for the last two decades for the party, it has been very difficult to even find candidates in other provinces. Today, the PPP is very much a Sindh-based party. The ANP has already been routed since 2008 in its once stronghold KP while the MQM along with the ANP have always been parochial parties. Against this backdrop, the PTI today is the only countrywide political party and it has demonstrated it through electoral wins in all the four provinces of Pakistan, particularly Punjab and KP, the heartland of Pakistani politics, as well as its public shows of strength through its huge gatherings spearheaded by its energetic 70-plus head, Imran Khan. Whether one likes it or not, the PTI is today the only national-level party and the only true representative of the federation of Pakistan.

In a country which dismembered in 1971 on the basis of ethnic separatism and all its provinces are based on ethnic division and where ethno-linguistic separatist movements, both militant and non-militant, are quite strong even today, the emergence of a true federal party is a great blessing. Therefore, the attempt to obliterate the PTI by the ruling alliance backed by elements within the establishment through arrests, attacks, registering of police cases on frivolous charges and efforts and desire to ban it, is tantamount to damaging Pakistan. Our leaders must understand that an ethnically, politically and culturally diverse country, like Pakistan, keeping the federation together only through an institution, like the military, is not sustainable. A country could only be kept together on the basis of democratic and constitutional order. Today, most Pakistanis from all across the country, four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, where the PTI has its government even now, consider Mr. Khan as their true leader on the basis of his non-parochial but a Pakistani agenda then such a party must also be supported by the establishment, at least. Because if Mr. Khan is eliminated physically or politically by the ruling alliance, then it would have dire consequences for the country and state institutions. It is not the matter of the PTI or Mr. Khan but the people of the country. He is the most popular leader of the country and must be given every opportunity to rule it. This would be the litmus test of its credentials. If it does not happen, then some other party or leader whether from the traditional or new part may emerge and become popular. It is the country that has to live on not parties or its leaders. So whosoever has the support of the people must be allowed to govern.