FeaturedNationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 25

Time to heal the festering wounds

Politics is the art of the possible but politicians in Pakistan are playing the game in an impossible manner. The result is a dysfunctional state and a sense of growing hopelessness across the land.

Political headwinds are taking an ugly turn. Ever since the regime change in April last year, Pakistan has been in a state of crisis. Not one crisis but a series of crises. You name it, and you have it. Political instability, economic meltdown, a parliament vs judiciary stand-off and now a constitutional dilemma. The rules of the game are being openly violated while political positions have become so hard and rigid that no move forward seems possible.

The PDM government has lost control over governance. While the economy is sinking with each passing day, the IMF is playing “catch me if you can” with the government clueless as to what to do. Inflation has gone through the roof and power and gas bills have become unaffordable. The PDM must be ruing the day it took power.

The ruling coalition cannot face the people and that is why it is finding one excuse after another to postpone the polls for as long as possible. Its reluctance to hold elections within 90 days of dissolution of provincial assemblies is a clear violation of the relevant constitutional provision. But the government is unabashed.

The debate over parliamentary supremacy and the Supreme Court’s powers is inane and makes a mockery of the concept of separation of powers. These two organs of the state have their own domains and have to operate within the limits laid down in the Constitution. The Supreme Court has the final say in disputes whether between individuals, political groups or organs of the state. But the government is openly defying the apex court by challenging its power to take suo motu notices and form benches to hear cases.

A very dangerous precedent is being set. If the ruling of the Supreme Court is defied once, it can happen again and again and the rule of law goes out of the window, Pakistan already has a low ranking in the international democracy and rule of law indices. The latest events unfolding will push it further down the world ranking. The image of Pakistan will be in the mud.

A related issue is the defiance of the Constitution. The 90-day limit for holding elections has already been violated. This means that the sanctity of the Constitution is no more. This opens the door for any government in the future not holding elections on one specious ground or another. That means Pakistan will no longer be a constitutional democracy but would become an autocracy or banana state with any group of people in power refusing to step down and prolonging their rule for as long as they can.

The PDM government is trying to pulverise the opposition. The crackdown on the PTI, arrest and torture of its leaders, the storming of Imran Khan’s residence and the latest midnight raid on Pervez Elahi’s residence with an APC ramming through the main gate – all this is further poisoning an already toxic political atmosphere. If this goes on, politics will no longer remain politics but a mortal combat for power and privilege.

In these circumstances, does democracy have a future in Pakistan? Our past record is not very edifying. For over 60 years the country has swung between martial laws and hybrid democratic stints. But the latest turn of events is the worst of them all.

It is time to take a pause. It is time to think and think hard where we are heading. There is an abyss ahead. Driven to the wall, Imran Khan may take to the street and, with his mass following, anything can happen – chaos, anarchy, lawlessness and much more. The have-nots will target the haves and all symbols of state power. There will be a total breakdown of civil disorder.

The wounds are festering. It’s time to heal. The talks now going on to find a way out of the crisis must not fail. Wise heads from both sides must see to it that saboteurs and mischief mongers lurking in the wings do not succeed in their dark designs. If talks don’t succeed, democracy, Pakistan and its people would be the loser.