Calm down

By Editorial Board
March 23, 2023

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the document that is supposed to hold this country together – the constitution of Pakistan – things in the country seem a far cry from the Pakistan the constitution had promised. With a politics in crisis, human rights that are but in name alone, economic rights that can only be afforded by the one per cent, and an institutional crisis that rears its head every few years, this March 23 we need everyone in power, vying for power, or propping up power to just calm down. Unfortunately, the constitution seems to be the last thing on anyone’s mind. In what has been immediately decried as completely unconstitutional, the ECP has now announced the postponement of the elections in Punjab, which were scheduled to be held on April 30, citing security reasons as the major cause behind their change in plan. The new polls will now be held on October 8 as per the ECP notification. This development will surely open up a whole new Pandora’s box and will likely be challenged in the courts by the PTI. As things seem to be getting messier, we need now more than ever for all stakeholders to search for a way to reach a consensus and end this crisis.


Amidst very few positive signs, during the joint session of parliament yesterday, when Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah was asked whether the government was planning on banning the PTI, he said that would not be the right thing to do. This came a day after a delegation of civil society organizations called on PTI Chairman Imran Khan at his Zaman Park residence where they discussed the tense political atmosphere. Imran has reportedly agreed to be part of a multi-party conference to develop a consensus on a process that leads to elections. For most constitutionalists, elections really are the only way forward and any effort to stop them is unconstitutional. Which is why the ECP’s decision to postpone the Punjab elections will inevitably – and justifiably – be seen in light of the government huddle held a day earlier. While this matter may eventually end up in court, much like everything else in our politics, can we hope that all parties – particularly the PTI – realize that it’s time to cool down temperatures because if things keep going on a collision path, it can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy and wrap up the entire democratic setup?

Hoping against hope may be the only way forward though because right when there was a feeling there may be some headway in consensus-building, yesterday Imran Khan came out with a startling and very serious allegation: ‘that another operation will be conducted outside Zaman Park and there will be an attempt to assassinate him in the same manner as Murtaza Bhutto’. The Punjab government has been quick to respond, the caretaker CM saying they will be opening an investigation into this allegation and take strict action either way’. Till now, the PTI chair has been able to sustain political pressure on the government. Perhaps, he had rather come to the negotiating table from a position of strength? He may rightly be thinking that this is a government that is unpopular due to the economic and political instability in the country and will have to agree to his terms or find a middle way. There are pragmatists though who caution that Imran may have overplayed his hand. The past two days have seen a far less accommodating government and state structure. Populism may be potent but in Pakistan the most potent ingredient – if missing – translates less into victory and more into wilderness. All said, both sides have enough reasons to talk to each other and reach a consensus. The political process must be allowed to continue and parliament is the right forum to reach a consensus. If nothing else, 50 years of a constitution should be enough to teach us the importance of sticking to process, law, and the spirit of democracy.