Thursday June 13, 2024

Two paths from here on

There is still stage left for this drama to finally end: that of ECP exercising its right to challenge PHC decision in SC

By Raoof Hasan
January 12, 2024
A man walks past a poster of ex-prime minister Imran Khan, at a market in Islamabad. — AFP/File
A man walks past a poster of ex-prime minister Imran Khan, at a market in Islamabad. — AFP/File

The Peshawar High Court’s decision to restore to the PTI its election symbol of bat has cast a spell of shock upon the entire government machinery as also the ranks of the political parties and their allies. They must be busy behind tightly shut doors thinking of the next move they would make to keep the PTI out of the election race.

In the short order issued on January 10, the PHC has adjudicated that “we hold the impugned order of the ECP dated December 22 as illegal, without any lawful authority and of no legal effect”. It further directed the ECP to “forthwith publish the certificate filed by the petitioner (PTI) on its website” and that “PTI is entitled to the Election Symbol strictly in terms of Sections 215 and 217 read with any other enabling provision of the Election Act, 2017 and Election Rules, 2017”.

With a plethora of challenges being constantly hurled at the PTI in an excessively depressing environment, this decision has come as a whiff of fresh air for the party and its followers. Though the state terror which the party has been remorselessly subjected to ever since its ouster from power was never able to dent the resolve, vigour, and passion of the PTI followers, this decision has given them a fresh dose of bubbling energy to come back with the full might of their resolve to enter the election arena.

There is still a stage left for this drama to finally end: that of the ECP exercising its right to challenge the PHC decision in the Supreme Court. The apex court could still turn the tables on the PTI. But legal pundits are of the view that doing so will be an extremely untenable prospect for the SC. But then, nothing is beyond the operational machinations of the orchestrators of the regime change operation.

It is difficult to fathom in a few lines what the people have endured in the last couple of years. They have suffered the pain of denial of their democratic rights to elect a government of their choice in which they will have faith of deliverance from a host of existential issues which have only aggravated with time.

While the state was never generous in fulfilling its responsibilities in the context of the social contract, its ability to do so has further depleted ever since the ouster of Imran Khan government and denying him an opportunity to put the country on the path of attaining genuine independence with freedom to take decisions that would augment Pakistan’s security and the welfare of its people. Unfortunately, such a prospect was neither acceptable to a coalition of internal forces nor to our external anointed masters.

Consequently, they joined hands in conspiring to see the back of a government which had performed admirably, even through the Covid days, in putting Pakistan on road to progress with attaining a phenomenal growth rate of 6.1 per cent. This was in addition to Pakistan gaining a credible voice at the regional and international level with Imran Khan forcefully taking up causes that impacted the fate of the country and its people. His was a voice that resounded across the international arena carrying authority, relevance, and respect.

All that was snapped in a fit of mayhem, plunging Pakistan into a pit where the constitution became just a piece of paper deserving the bin, rule of law was scorned at, institutions were trampled upon with impunity and corruption regained its favourite game stature in the power echelons. Consequently, the country suffered immensely with an economy nosediving to bankruptcy, terrorism digging in its tentacles deeper, and people pushed to the fringes of life struggling ever so desperately for two measly meals a day. The worst part is that sanity has been banished as an essential ingredient of the process of thinking. Confronted with setbacks like the PHC decision, the power-wielders are likely to become even more infatuated with resorting to the worst for keeping Khan out.

But the trick does not seem to be working. With every day that passes, government tactics are becoming the target of criticism both domestically and internationally. There is increasing pressure for holding free, fair, and inclusive elections and providing a level playing field to all contestants. This is being consistently denied to the PTI as a host of their leaders and workers remain incarcerated, legal recourse is denied to them, permission is not granted to hold their political rallies and state violence is repeatedly perpetrated to perpetuate a fear syndrome.

There are two paths from here on: holding a free and transparent election will pave the way to the installation of a government with genuine mandate and legitimacy to rule with authority to fulfil its charter, but obstructing this will create a situation ripe with the prospect of anger and violence. The former can potentially heal the wounds which have been lacerating over time while the latter would scrape them further causing pain and suffering. The former is advisable while the latter should be shunned.

Notwithstanding the recipe, the drift of events is taking us further from the path of sanity. In addition to this being extremely unfortunate, it could also sow the seeds of destruction. It must be understood that every divisive ailment cannot be settled by using instruments of coercion and pressure. There comes a time, as indeed it has come for this beleaguered country, where logic and reason assume ever more importance and relevance, and these must be used to tide over multiple divisions afflicting the society at any juncture. Persisting with espousing a path devoid of sanity will only accelerate our plunge into an even deeper pit from where there would be no coming out.

The PHC decision is a spark of hope in a darkened environment. Rather than fighting it at various fora, this must be accepted in totality and steps initiated for a free, fair, and inclusive election in the country. Nothing else will work to heal the wounds incurred through time. They need urgent treatment. A possible delay in holding elections, as is being projected by some pundits, will only aggravate an already desperate state.

For the power-wielders, it is time to wake up from the shock of the PHC decision, accept it as an order spelling fairness, and move on with holding free and fair elections so that the exercise carries the legitimacy to be acknowledged by the people of the country. The wounds are deep, and emotions incensed. Any further disappointment can spur a reaction that may spiral out of control, plunging the country into an unfathomable chaos.

The writer is the information secretary of the PTI, and a fellow at King’s College London. He tweets/posts @RaoofHasan