Monday July 15, 2024

Political faceoff

By Editorial Board
March 29, 2023

In the ongoing game of tit-for-tat, on Tuesday Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif added his two cents too during his address to the National Assembly. The prime minister minced very few words regarding PTI Chairman Imran Khan – calling him a ‘fraud’ with whom it is not possible to talk unless Imran apologizes to the people and admits that he has damaged the country. While the premier agreed that in a democracy dialogue is important, he also pointed out that it is rather tough to talk to someone who keeps rejecting invitations for talks on everything. The prime minister is not wrong here: in democracies, dialogue is the way forward. Usually, this concept is unconditional. In our case, though, talks now seem to hinge on something that will not happen: an apology by Imran Khan – which is how we come right back to square one: a dangerous and escalating faceoff between the government and the PTI.

The stakes are now quite high on both sides of the divide; the government has made it quite clear that it will not hold elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa next month and will only go for elections across the country in October. The Punjab and KP elections issue has now also become the peg for a debate on the judiciary: something that should have been avoided at all costs, given the need for the judiciary to always stay away from controversy. PM Shehbaz has also waded into the debate, making sure he praised the Monday ruling by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail. This came on a day when the CJP said the decision to postpone polls in Punjab was penned in haste by the ECP and even went on to propose a pay cut for himself and other judges to fund elections. Meanwhile, the cabinet has approved a bill that says that three senior-most judges of the Supreme Court will decide if a suo-motu notice should be taken. Are we headed towards another faceoff – the executive versus the judiciary? For the sake of democracy, justice, and basic sanity one would hope cooler heads prevail on all sides.

From a Pemra ban on the coverage of PTI rallies and gatherings in Islamabad to Rana Sanaullah’s recent interview, we are being given a high dose of throwback to just a few years ago when during the PTI tenure similar tactics were employed: interviews of opposition leaders not allowed to be aired, Nawaz Sharif’s coverage completely banned on the media and a most crippling censorship imposed across the media. Regardless of the politics of the PTI, the coalition government needs to be reminded that the right to information cannot be taken away from the people of Pakistan. Neither can the right to protest. One wonders what democracy allows arbitrary detentions and censorship. The government may not be wrong when it says that Imran Khan and the PTI are spoiling for a fight and for chaos but when your interior minister gives statements that say: its either us or the PTI, there is little mystery about which way the government is headed. And all this is happening as people are dying in stampedes over food rations, there is gas loadshedding in the financial capital of the country, and the country is edging closer to a complete economic breakdown. Would it be too much to ask this country’s power elite – political and institutional – to set aside their egos, move away from indulging in their political agendas and learn to play nice for the sake of the people of this country?