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September 30, 2020

Inter-institution dialogue: the only way forward [News analysis]

National

September 30, 2020

ISLAMABAD: It’s high time for an inter-institution summit that will conduct a dialogue at the highest level to avert endangering the system and hurting the country in view of the rising post-APC tensions between the opposition parties and the institutions.

Unfortunately, what NAB is currently doing is akin to adding fuel to the fire. Meanwhile, the current government-opposition political bickering and point scoring is only making the situation more ominous.

Tensions are now being dangerously exacerbated but could be converted into an opportunity to translate into reality what former Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had said at the time of his appointment as the top judge of the country. While Justice Khosa himself could not get all the key institutions to sit together to hold a historic dialogue, someone at the helm of affairs -- whether in the executive, judiciary or representing the establishment – must now take the initiative for the sake of the system and for the sake of Pakistan.

Matters have taken a more alarming turn after the opposition’s APC held this month. Actions and reactions from all sides since September 20 have contributed to such a situation that even a former secretary defence and retired general Khalid Lodhi recently stated that all institutions, including the defence forces, judiciary, media, political parties and others, have become controversial.

General Lodhi rightly said that all these institutions have locked horns with each other and in such circumstances, Pakistan cannot move forward. He strongly advocated the initiation of a dialogue between all players to get the contentious issues settled.

Justice Khosa had proposed that the president of Pakistan should hold an inter-institution dialogue at the summit level to take stock of mistakes committed in the past and come up with a 'Charter of Governance' so as to ensure that such mistakes are not repeated in the future.

Khosa had proposed that, "Such a summit may be attended by the top parliamentary leadership, top judicial leadership and top executive leadership including the military and the intelligence agencies.” He had stated that after bringing all such major stakeholders involved in national governance on one table under the patronage of the president of Pakistan, an effort should be made through such a proposed exercise to heal the wounds of the past, attend to the sore points and work out a practicable policy framework where every organ and institution of the state exercises its powers and performs its functions within its constitutionally defined limits.

"Let us discuss with open minds where the judiciary, the executive and the legislature have gone wrong in the past. Let us discuss where each other's domain has been encroached upon in the past and try to resolve such issues through a mutually agreed course of action,” Khosa had suggested.

Unfortunately, he retired without taking forward this great idea and now we are finding ourselves in a far worse situation than before. Confrontational actions and statements are being witnessed and heard like never before. There is no one around to help cool the situation down. After the APC, NAB is adding fuel to the fire by arresting and issuing call up notices to opposition leaders. In reaction, opposition leaders, particularly Maryam Nawaz and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, have become more vocal and more inflammatory.

Letting things proceed along the current confrontational path will not serve any institution, individual, government or political party, whether sitting on the treasury benches or in the opposition. Siding with one party or the other will also not solve the problem. Witnessing this gathering storm as a mere spectator, particularly by those who matter, can no longer be condoned.

Dialogue is the only way forward and for this, President Arif Alvi is in the best position to act. Prime Minister Imran Khan should support him because, ultimately, this dialogue will benefit his government the most.