Head of PPP Media Cell
The oath taking of Hassan Askari Rizvi as the caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab on Friday last may now rest the controversies behind for holding elections on time. The political parties may move forward to engage in hectic election campaign to apprise the voters of their manifestos to convince them as the best road map to serve them, and as such deserve their support in the forthcoming general elections. The caretaker chief ministers of other provinces have also taken oath optimistically clearing the way for the next stage of elections which are expected to be hotly contested. Critics are well advised not to consume their energies on peripheral matters like caretaker set-ups that stood settled now as per the procedure laid down in the constitution. The bickering in perpetuity may not yield the favourable results as was the case in PTI that had to confront hostile press and public perception due to its flip-flop in the nomination of caretaker chief ministers.
The furor of the PML-N over the appointment of Hassan Askari Rizvi as caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab does not come across convincing because that has been come to fruition after following the constitutional procedure thoroughly and comprehensively. At every stage the PML-N remained actively engaged but could not hammer out the consensus candidate and therefore the appointment had to be made by the Election Commission of Pakistan as ordained in the constitution. The PML-N’s opposition at this stage may be deemed as misplaced, and also tantamount of going against the dictates of the constitution. Being one of the major political forces of the country, it may wisely decide to facilitate the democratic to stay put firmly on track no matter what. Triggering controversy may breed uncertainty with potential to rock the boat instead of steering it in the desired destination.
Chaudhry Manzoor, PPP Information Secretary, while commenting on the PML-N’s weird reaction has stated that it is beyond comprehension because holding of free, fair and transparent elections is the sole constitutional obligation of the Election Commission of Pakistan and not of the caretaker administration. The caretaker administration only helps in creating enabling environment under the watchful eyes of the ECP. It may be added that ECP had been made so powerful administratively and financially that the caretaker administration cannot take any action that the Commission considers as detrimental to the undertaking of its constitutional responsibility of holding free and fair elections in the country. The Commission is fully empowered to declare any action of the caretaker administration null and void according to Election Act 2017 if considered impinging the impartiality and credibility of the elections.
The possibility of favouring any party under the supervision of Hassan Askari Rizvi’s administration may not be imagined as he is man of impeccable integrity both in form and manifestation. His views now in circulation, attributed to him, are certainly being quoted out of context because his democratic credentials are deeply rooted in his heart and mind. His intellectual integrity is beyond any shadow of doubt. His assurance to his critics for above board treatment may be taken without slightest hesitation. He fully understands the indispensability of democracy for the federation. His conviction in this regard is undoubtedly rooted on his vast scholarship of the subject of government and politics in Pakistan since 1947 and beyond.
Secondly, the appointment of caretaker chief minister of Punjab has taken place after the scrupulous adherence to the primary law of the land, constitution, leaving no shred of doubt. The nomination of caretaker chief minister is basically the responsibility of the government and of the leader of the opposition through the well-defined consultative process. In case they fail, the parliamentary committee consisting members of the government and the opposition undertakes the job of finalisation of the caretaker chief minister. In case of the failure of the parliamentary committee too, the Election Commission of Pakistan has been vested with the constitutional authority to select one considered as most neutral and competent out of the four candidates submitted by both the opposition and the government. The Punjab government nominated their candidates those included retired judge Sair Ali and Admiral (R) Zakaullah and the opposition nominated Ayaz Amir and Hassan Askari Rizvi, a well-known scholar and defence analysis. The ECP selected Hassan Askari Rizvi who matched the ruthless scrutiny conducted by the Commission. Undoubtedly, Rizvi carries good repute among the academia being an independent analyst known as such in foreign countries’ Think Tanks and Research organisations. His articles are published in the international publications quite often. Jamaat-e-Islami leader and MMA’s Secretary General, Liaquat Baloch, has very aptly defended the decision of the Election Commission by maintaining the Commission had to undertake the responsibility after the failure of the government and the opposition on a consensus candidate for the slot of Punjab chief minister.
The Election Commission has rightly rejected the reservations of the PML-N leadership on its decision which is indeed based on the thorough and painstaking assessment of the each candidate. It found Hassan Askari as the most suitable among others. Belated crying foul may not help the party in any way because the constitution has been followed throughout the selection process. The party may accept him as caretaker chief minister with open mind in the interest of creating conducive environment for elections. It seems the party has prudently decided to get along while crying foul at the same time.
How unfortunate for the country and democracy that the polarisation in politics has reached to this pass that the parties cannot even nominate consensus candidate for caretaker set-up to hold elections. It is poor reflection of the political leadership. It is handing out the message of their disregard to the fundamentals of democratic practices demanding peaceful co-existence instead of making the politics as a blood sport that does not settle less than sending the political opponents packing to hell. The PTI may have contributed in this notoriety that may well prove its albatross finally because what comes around and around comes back around. The politics of insults, allegations and unsavory language may have become norm than exception so far as the PTI leadership is concerned. The slap in the face of the PML-N leader by PTI stalwart in the TV talk show was the manifestation of the ugly face of the politics. The incident, not surprisingly, drew condemnation from all sides including the leadership of other parties and the media. Sadly, the mum of top leadership of the party on this sordid incident meant may not be appreciated by anyone with right frame of mind. The day may not come when the undertakers have the taste of their own medicine.
PPP being a matured political party of the country strongly discounts such undemocratic practices and invective politics. It always stood for parliamentary politics demanding mutual tolerance and appreciation of the points of views of political opponents. Its leadership never resorted to petty politics of hurling allegations and using of unparliamentarily lexicon against political opponents. It was due to this commitment of the political leadership of the party that succeeded in introducing about more than 90% bills in the National Assembly of 2008-2013 with consensus. The landmark constitutional amendments including the 18th Amendment in the constitution were enacted with consensus -- indeed handsome tribute to politics of ‘reconciliation’ strongly advocated by Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. These historic amendments were the physical manifestation of the PPP trait of promoting the consensus politics as the cornerstone of PPP parliamentary politics. It may be relevant to mention that the PPP did not command the absolute majority in the then National Assembly and yet its legislative business record was much better, both in qualitative and quantitative terms, than the recently dissolved National Assembly.
Pakistan is passing through difficult times as forces within the country and outside are bent upon inflicting heavy blow with pernicious design to choke the federation in all possible ways. Sadly, the upping of confrontation among the political leadership, and the perceived misplaced interference of state institutions in the domestic politics, provide them ideal conditions for the culmination of their toxic agenda—diplomatic isolation, bigotry, intolerance and communalism. The majority of political leadership does talk about the activities of anti-state forces but seldom venture to take tangible steps to stem the black tide that has been lucking in the close proximity. Their endeavours to promote unity within the country are not visible while things are moving from bad to worse to the collective chagrin because divided house cannot withstand the challenges of time. Instead their shenanigans, may be by default, are seemingly engaged to sprawl factional politics as warned by outspoken and illustrious Senator Raza Rabbani who always speaks his mind, without fear and favour, whenever the questions of democracy, federation and constitutional rule are at stake.
Tailpiece: I am constraint to write my comment, for fear of contempt of the court, on the rejection of deposed prime minister’s submission by the Accountability Court not allowing him to go abroad for few days to see his critically ailing wife who is a cancer patient. The deafening silence of the most of the political leadership is shockingly frustrating, reflective of moral bankruptcy. Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s visit to Services Hospital, Lahore, to inquire after the health of Ahsan Iqbal surely melted the hearts of the people right across the country.