Tuesday April 16, 2024

Messier and messier

By Editorial Board
March 21, 2023

With just two days left to Ramazan, one would have thought the chaos on the political front would subside by now, some olive branches or white flags waved around, something – anything – to bring peace to a very dangerous situation that requires a major intervention now. But things are only getting messier. After the Zaman Park operation, a visibly angry PTI Chairman Imran Khan took to his usual perch in front of the camera and seemed to be barely keeping it together as he called the government shameless for going after his people and his home. He seemed to have somewhat calmed down yesterday – though he has now claimed that there was a ‘death trap’ ready for him at the Judicial Complex during his hearing and that he ‘barely escaped’ this death trap. The PTI does not seem to be wishing to back down. And now it seems the Punjab government too has decided it will also not back from a fight as evident from Punjab CM Mohsin Naqvi’s no-holds-barred press conference in which he has said that the police cannot give security to Imran while receiving threats from the PTI, and that the PTI s perpetuating terrorism.

Pakistan hardly has an enviable record when it comes to governments, governance, democracy, and institutional boundaries. But in the past this is the moment – in fact, before this – when someone has seen sense and sought to defuse the situation. Not so now. We are in the midst of a perfect storm and the collision course we are on seems rather inevitable given how the political heat has risen in less than one week. It is tempting to equate all sides in this tedious equation but as far as talks and negotiations go, the PTI has been the first one to shoot down any attempt at negotiations. Even now, with some hints by the government about negotiations and even the PTI looking like it may agree, Imran is out with a new twist in the tale: an alleged assassination attempt hatched apparently in London against him. Added to this is the daily challenge of the writ of the state that the PTI has been indulging in. Oddly, as he and his party drag institutions into what is a purely political fight, Imran has also now claimed that the coalition government is trying to cause divisions within the PTI and the army. Not to be outdone – especially in this matter – Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has alleged that the PTI has started a smear campaign against the army chief and that, in his quest for power, Imran is damaging the country and undermining the armed forces.

So all in all, every party that is vying for power in this unfortunate land has decided that this exact moment in history is when no one will opt for the usual politics of compromise that end up saving us. Most people have acknowledged that what has changed is the nature of politics, this new iteration having been introduced by the very populist PTI which perhaps remained blue-eyed for so long that playing by the rules set for everyone else irks the party. The problem is that if nobody takes a step back and elections are not held on time – some say CM Naqvi’s insinuation that the government will write to the ECP about the PTI’s ‘terrorism’ is a step in that direction – then this political collusion course will eventually lead to something far more damaging and dangerous. The PTI is on a warpath with the state – and there is very little one can find to justify the party’s recent actions – but the government too needs to resist the temptation to gun for the PTI. Can we dare hope that Ramazan may bring some sanity to this country’s politics? Will all the stakeholders, political and otherwise, think of the future of this country? There are little to no signs that the people are anyone’s priority right now as arrests, operations, unfounded allegations, and default rumours make headlines every single day.