Deadlocked politics

Editorial Board
January 21, 2023

Living up to what has now become routine in Punjab, politics is once at a deadlock. In fact, one could argue that ‘deadlock’ is the current status quo in the country’s...

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Living up to what has now become routine in Punjab, politics is once at a deadlock. In fact, one could argue that ‘deadlock’ is the current status quo in the country’s make-or-break province for many an aspirant to power. This time the parties are unable to agree to one name on who gets to be the caretaker CM in Punjab. The matter is now – per the constitution – with the ECP. After the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly, the natural next step was getting a caretaker setup in place. To that end, the PTI-PMLQ and the PDM-PMLN proposed their respective names: the PDM had proposed Ahad Cheema and Mohsin Naqvi while the PTI-PMLQ’s final nominees are Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera and Naveed Akram Cheema. Unsurprisingly, a consensus could not be reached between the two sides so according to Article 224A of the constitution, a parliamentary committee was formed with representatives of both sides. The names were discussed yesterday, without any headway. And now the final arbiter, as per Article 224A-3, is the ECP which has to finalize a name within two days.

One would think the constitution being clear on something would make things easier. One would be wrong. Outgoing Chief Minister of Punjab Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi has bizarrely already claimed that he will not accept whatever name the ECP decides and will challenge it in court. The natural question that arises is: to what end? What exactly can the court do when the constitution is this clear on the process – that in case of no political consensus, the ECP decides out of these four names. It’s a rather simple process and taking it to court would mean the PTI-PMLQ is effectively saying they have an issue with the constitution, something that is becoming a bit of a pattern: not liking a constitutional clause and trying to judicialize the whole process. Lest we forget, the chief election commissioner was appointed by the PTI. It can now blame X or Y or Z but at the end of the day, the PTI government appointed him and was also happy with him till the Daska by-polls. If the PTI-PMLQ are not happy with the PDM’s nominees, they can only do so much about it. One is also uncomfortably reminded of the Article 63A reinterpretation, or constitutional rewriting as more uncharitable critics had rather justifiably pointed out at the time.

As if Punjab’s dramatic politics was not enough, another 35 resignations have been accepted by the speaker of the National Assembly – bringing the grand total of accepted resignations this week to 70. Unfortunately, the political landscape has become so polarized that each side thinks it has pulled a masterstroke. It is time both sides stopped playing these games and tried to formulate a political plan for a conflict resolution rather than going into the elections like this. There is a growing and legitimate fear that both sides will keep playing these games even after elections are held and we will again witness another 2013 or 2018 scenario. Is expecting maturity from the political class a dream too far-fetched for us? It would seem so.

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