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Monday October 03, 2022

An explosive interview

By Editorial Board
March 17, 2022

Generally, one would not imagine that a political answer by a politician in an interview would mention babies, nappies or rotten charsi tikkas – but nothing is much of a surprise in Pakistan, where political discourse is both plunging new depths and retaining the much-used resort to euphemisms. The interview in question – aired on Tuesday night – saw PML-Q leader and Speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi hold little back while criticising the government – a government Elahi’s party is in alliance with not just in Punjab but in the centre as well.

It is not the first time the PML-Q leadership has made critical comments about the ruling party and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s style of governance. Although a clarification – some could optimistically see it as a pro-government statement – was issued yesterday by the PML-Q, that doesn't do much to take the sting away from the original statements by Elahi, which only added to the speculations regarding which way the allies will turn, a decision that will come out in the open soon enough. More importantly, the fact that the MQM and PML-Q have repeatedly criticised the government should warrant an introspection by the government – why is it that its allies as well as groups within the party are openly complaining about the way the ruling party has been going about its business of governance.

For example, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi talked about the vindictive nature of this government when it comes to its opponents or critics, and the way state institutions like the FIA or NAB have been used for such ends. We have seen how the entire process of accountability has been made controversial under this government, with domestic and international human rights activists and political parties consistently claiming that cases against political opponents, critics, and journalists under this regime have been a result of settling scores; and even court judgments criticising NAB's modus operandi. This criticism is not entirely without merit. Former FIA DG Bashir Memon’s revelations regarding the government’s orders to FIA to make false cases against the opposition leaders is on the record. And not just politicians; we have seen targeted harassment of journalists who have been critical of the current government — the FIA’s cybercrime wing has been an instrumental tool used to silence dissent.

Regardless of any clarifications, the PTI government will need to take the interview seriously, especially with Elahi's comments regarding the political 'crutches' he says have helped this government in many ways. A government said to be propped up on political crutches would ideally have a more reconciliatory approach but it seems that Prime Minister Imran Khan has more than doubled down on his March 27 plan, calling for people to come to the march as a fight against injustice and wrongdoing. That said, the opposition too seems to be unclear on exactly how it plans to move forward if it manages to succeed in the vote of no confidence. Talks of a 'national government' are doing the rounds – Shahbaz Sharif and Maulana Fazlur Rahman articulating a possibility of this openly – bizarrely with a minus-Imran Khan formula. Whatever calculations have led to such formula, the opposition would do well to remember that such a step would go against the spirit of the democracy the opposition claims to be valiantly fighting for, not to mention the setting of a dangerous precedent.

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