Monday September 25, 2023

Tiresome politics

By Editorial Board
May 11, 2022

One would have thought that with the federal government evidently having had enough and issuing a notification to remove Punjab Governor Omar Sarfaraz Cheema from his post, things may settle down. But it seems Punjab’s politics is threatening to remain tiresome. Cheema has refused to accept the decision and is looking at legal ways to stay in power. Pervaiz Elahi has refused to assume the acting governor post as speaker of the Punjab Assembly. Imran Khan has urged the Supreme Court to take ‘immediate notice of the blatant violation of the constitution and the law in Punjab’, and it is quite possible the matter may eventually go to the court, once again dragging the judiciary into the political process. Not to be left behind, President Arif Alvi – referring to Clause 3 of Article 101 of the constitution – has said that ‘the governor shall hold office as per the pleasure of the president’. All in all, this is one big mess, which will not just disappear on its own, even as the PTI continues to keep invoking and violating the constitution at its own convenience.

The federal government, meanwhile, has nightmares that go beyond an outraged former prime minister. The non-existent honeymoon period is well and over and there are now rumblings over how the Shehbaz-led government is planning to ‘fix’ the economy. While it may be unfair to expect miracles, the feeling that the government is a bit lost does not inspire much confidence. Add to that PM Shehbaz and senior PML-N leaders rushing off to London reportedly for a meeting with Mian Nawaz Sharif, after which ‘big decisions’ are expected – and one wonders whether the government is at all interested in how this plays out for the people. There are natural questions over just why the PM has to rush to London, who is making decisions, and why consultations cannot be held virtually. At the moment, the government has to play to its strengths: fixing the mess the previous regime has left behind. Playing on the PTI’s wicket may be tempting but will be futile. In this, Khawaja Asif has correctly pointed out in an interview with Geo News that if the government were to go after the PTI for its statements regarding state institutions, even if for the right reasons, it would be seen as vindictive politics and will only end up strengthening the PTI’s narrative of persecution. We remember all too well how the PTI government had excelled in targeting political opponents and dissenting journalists; if the PML-N led coalition government thinks that it can play this game, then it is in for a surprise. No rules applied to the PTI when it was in power, but the new government has neither the luxury nor the unconditional support to indulge in such tactics. If it tries to arm-twist the PTI into submission, it only ends up making the PTI’s case.

The PML-N has been known for good governance and delivery. Indecisiveness at this moment, whether on the economic front or the political front, is a bad idea. The PDM and the PPP were asked many times before the vote of no-confidence whether they had a plan for after the vote. Unfortunately, the confidence that was exhibited then seems to have disappeared, and Imran Khan is winning the narrative war through continuous incitement and hateful rhetoric. The ever-present question of the military’s ‘neutrality’, brought up again and again by Imran Khan and his party, has even elicited yet another response by the ISPR, which has taken “strong exception” to “intensified and deliberate attempts” to drag it into political discourse. During yesterday’s Jhelum jalsa, Imran seemed to have dialled down on the neutral talk but former PTI minister Fawad Chaudhry directly asked the country’s ‘chowkidars’ to intervene since ‘dakus’ had taken over. We seem to be stuck in a political groundhog day: a long march to Islamabad looming, Imran and co are not in any mood to back off, and the government is facing a Catch-22 situation on almost every front.