FeaturedNationalVOLUME 19 ISSUE # 15

Politics now: A state of uncertainty and confusion

Following the consolidation of the Feb 8 election results, the process of government formation both at the centre and in the provinces has begun. Punjab Governor Baleeghur Rehman and Sindh Governor Kamran Tessori summoned the provincial assembly sessions after the Election Commission of Pakistan allocated reserved seats for women and minorities to the respective parties based on their performance in the general seats.

The Pakistan Peoples Party holds a majority in the Sindh Assembly, while the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) asserts a comfortable majority in Punjab. A few days ago, the elected chief ministers after being sworn in took over reins of governments in Punjab and Sindh. Hopefully the process will be completed in KP and Balochistan soon.

However, for inexplicable reasons, the ECP did not allocate reserved seats in the National Assembly as well as the provincial legislatures of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. But, strangely, the parliamentary affairs ministry forwarded a summary to President Arif Alvi, proposing the convening of the National Assembly. But President Arif Alvi returned the summary of the caretaker parliamentary affairs ministry, on the plea that the process of allocating reserved seats for women and minorities must be completed before calling the National Assembly into session. A large number of independent candidates backed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf secured victory in the February 8 elections. To ensure their representation in the reserved seats, they aligned with the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC). But in its notification, the ECP did not allocate any seats to the SIC. The move has set off a constitutional debate, with Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf stepping in to call the NA meeting under Clause 2 of Article 91 of the Constitution.

In this context it is important to remember that the unexpected victory of PTI-backed independent candidates in the general elections came as a big surprise for political parties, the establishment as well as the Election Commission of Pakistan. The ECP was supposed to issue complete poll results within 14 days after the general elections. But it failed to do so and, further, it was unable to decide if it should allot reserved seats to the independent candidates entering the National Assembly under the banner of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC).

In the meantime, the PPP has concluded a power-sharing deal with the PML-N at the centre. But, curiously, it has refused to accept any ministry in the federal cabinet. This has raised questions about what the alliance is all about because when such alliances are formed there is always a common minimum programme, setting out the policies and priorities for the government and its functionaries. Naturally eyebrows have been raised and political analysts have commented that the PPP-PML-N alliance is nothing more than a formula for wielding power and having access to government resources for self-aggrandizement. This is evidenced by the fact that during the election campaign no party offered any credible plans about how they proposed to tackle the country’s multiple problems. Their manifestos were mostly a mixture of slogans, platitudes and extravagant promises devoid of any substance.

The split mandate that emerged from the elections is at the root of the political uncertainty and confusion the country is faced with at present. The parties which are going to form the government at the centre did not win a clear majority of seats in the elections. As such they are on a weak wicket, lacking legitimacy and public credibility and trust. Most political observers are of the opinion that such a wobbly coalition is least qualified to tackle the unprecedented challenges crying out for answers, including the worst economic crisis in the country’s history, raging inflation, crippling energy shortages, and a sharp deterioration in the working of state institutions. On top of all this, there are critical foreign policy issues, especially prickly relations with India and Afghanistan.

It is doubtful if a government which is not sure of its ground can confront such a formidable array of problems. Apprehensions in the public mind in this regard are strengthened by the fact that the new coalition at the centre is considered a replay of the last PDM government which signally failed to deliver the task assigned to it. In the background the reverberations of a disputed election continue to echo unabated, with threatening noises coming from JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman, GDA leaders in Sindh and nationalist parties in Balochistan. Let us hope that the chain of events that will unfold in the coming months are in the best interest of the nation.