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September 19, 2020

Calling all parties

Editorial

 
September 19, 2020

The All Parties Conference called by the Pakistan Bar Association in Islamabad on Wednesday came up with some important issues. The conference – attended by leaders of mainstream opposition political parties in the country, as well as analysts, journalists, lawyers and other experts – noted that there is a loss of civil rights freedom and a crackdown on press freedom in the country. Lawyers have also called for a revival of parliamentary oversight on the appointment of judges, an important issue which has been a topic of debate for some years. The lawyers said that they are dissatisfied with the manner in which judges are appointed and with the performance of some of them. They have asked for a different method to appoint judges.

During the conference, which comes a few days before an All Parties Conference called by political parties, there was also discussion on accountability and the manner in which it was being carried out. The lawyers demanded that accountability be conducted across the board without bias and with greater transparency. In this they were naturally backed by opposition politicians led by Shahbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto. All these issues will hopefully be taken up at the All Parties Conference called by all the major parties of the country. However, there are questions about how successful this meeting can be given the lack of unity we are seeing between the political parties. Already in parliament, there was a failure to produce enough representatives to defeat the government on important bills, even though the opposition holds a majority in the two houses of parliament and, as such, could have defeated government bills during a joint sitting. This didn't happen. Only 190 out of 226 opposition legislators arrived to attend the session. The reason given by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi that this was due to the fact that the announcement for the joint session came very late at night is just not sufficient.

There are also rumours that Shahbaz Sharif is dissatisfied with his own party and may be planning strategies of his own. In this situation it is hard to see an APC succeeding. However, the agenda set by the lawyers and the Pakistan Bar Council gives a good framework on which to work further and to develop a set of recommendations which can help the country move towards democracy and end the problems it is currently facing at the moment, including the lack of press freedom and the decline in civil liberties as a crackdown comes on privacy and the right to communication between citizens.