Thursday August 11, 2022

Dismissals and revelations

By Editorial Board
May 13, 2022

With the ECP dismissing the PTI’s references regarding disqualification of its dissident National Assembly members, one small chapter in the ongoing PTI vs Pakistan’s Politics saga comes to an end. By most legal analysts’ views, these references were in any case misleading as none of the PTI dissidents violated Article 63-A since they didn’t even cast their votes in the no-confidence move. For now, it seems the PTI will just have to settle for sloganeering and dog-whistling against its dissenting members at jalsas. In a further blow to the PTI’s interpretation of Article 63-A, Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial has said that, while defection is a heinous step, a lifetime ban on any politician is too extreme a punishment. The PTI’s demand that any member who defects should be disqualified for life was already a stretch but hardly surprising for a party that has tended to favour extreme punishments when it comes to those who oppose it.

The jalsas, the speeches, the references to neutrality and non-neutrality – it has been an unending warpath for the PTI ever since the vote of no-confidence was passed against Imran Khan. And now we have more revelations regarding the days preceding the no-confidence vote, with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari saying that the PTI government had sent him a threatening message before the vote of no-confidence was to take place that either the opposition should go for early elections or there would be martial law. Bilawal Bhutto has called for an investigation into the events leading up to April 3 and beyond. Given the way the PTI has managed to spin a narrative of persecution, there may be some merit in an independent inquiry into what went on before the previous prime minister was ousted from office. It is extremely disturbing if what Bilawal Bhutto has revealed is true: a government so desperate to hang on to power that it would rather have martial law than allow its opponents to take a constitutional step of opting for a no-confidence motion against the PM.

In other news, the PML-N leadership has decided not to go for early elections. The idea behind this seems to be that at a time when the country is struggling to survive economically, it is important that we see some political stability instead of two governments going out within a few months. If the Shehbaz-led coalition had gone for early elections, Pakistan would have seen three governments in a span of a year. However, there are indications that not all within the PML-N are convinced of this reasoning. The markets want stability but none of this will be easy since the government will have to take some extremely tough economic decisions, which will lead to further inflation and rise in prices. While the current finance minister faces a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation, at least a stop to mixed signals from the coalition government will make the government look less directionless. The government should focus on the economy, foreign policy, electoral reforms, and NAB reforms. The PTI and its leader will no doubt continue to bring up various challenges but at the moment the only way out for the combined government seems to be to allow Imran Khan At A Jalsa to be challenged by an equally fiery Maryam Nawaz At A Jalsa.