‘The failure of their long march has baffled the PTI leaders’

December 4, 2022

‘The failure of their long march has baffled the PTI leaders’

The recent announcement by former prime minister Imran Khan that legislators from his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf will soon leave the provincial assemblies to ratchet up pressure on the federal government to call early elections has stirred things up on the political horizon. All eyes are now on the Punjab as the public waits for the Pakistan Democratic Alliance to make the next move. There has already been some speculation about how Chief Minister Parvez Elahi might act – his vows of always following the PTI chief’s directions notwithstanding. The PDM lacks the numbers needed for a successful vote of no-confidence against Elahi. So, can the federal government impose the Governor’s Rule? The News on Sunday spoke to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz stalwart, Governor Baligh-ur Rehman on the way he says the situation. Excerpts:


The News on Sunday: How do you see Imran Khan’s announcement? Do you think the provincial assemblies of the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are going to be dissolved by their chief ministers? Also, do you consider this a sagacious move?

Governor Baligh-ur Rehman: Well, this is not the first time that Imran Khan has made such an announcement. In 2014, he had announced their [PTI members’] resignations from the National Assembly, but they never followed through. The PTI members remained absent from the assembly sessions but kept on drawing their salaries and allowances. This year, too, after resignations from the National Assembly were announced, several members took a U-turn and are still drawing their salaries while remaining absent from the sessions.

Now they are also threatening to dissolve the assemblies in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, it is hard to take them seriously given their history of U-turns. However, we are ready and all set to deal with any situation that might arise.

The failure of their so-called long march has baffled the PTI leaders. They are extremely frustrated. Resignations from the provincial assemblies where they command majorities sound like a political suicide.

TNS: Both PTI chairman Imran Khan and Chief Minister Parvez Elahi have hinted at dissolving the provincial assembly of the Punjab. What options does the PDM have to thwart their plan?

GBR: First of all, let me say that under no circumstances shall we let the chief minister rock the boat and derail the democratic system. In the current scenario, we have several options. A vote of confidence can be sought by the governor; the opposition can move a no-confidence motion and the Governor’s rule cannot be not ruled.

TNS: If a law and order situation develops, what will be your strategy?

GBR: Of course, ensuring public peace and order is our top priority. The PDM government will never allow anyone to disrupt the peace of the society, no matter what cost has to be paid. I want to make it very clear that the assemblies will complete their five-year tenure. Any move to dissolve those will be thwarted while acting within the parameters of the constitution.

During PTI’s failure of a long march, everybody saw what they actually wanted to gain. They were trying to throw the country into a quagmire of lawlessness, especially after the Wazirabad shooting. The people of Lahore saw what happened in the city. The gate of the Governor’s House, a symbol of the state of Pakistan, was torched in presence of the Punjab Police. No such incident had ever happened before in the history of Pakistan. The PTI had a strategy to divert public wrath towards state institutions.

“The people of Lahore were witnesses to what happened in the city; the way the gate of the Governor’s House, a symbol of the state of Pakistan, was torched in the presence of the Punjab Police.

TNS: Do you blame the government for what happened at the gate of the Governor’s House?

GBR: Even if we deny that, how can we ignore what went on after the Wazirabad shooting? A heavy contingent of police was present in font of the Governor’s House on the Mall, but they didn’t try to stop the handful of protesters who started the fire. Moreover, the police have yet to register an FIR and arrest those involved, even though the administration of the Governor’s House submitted a written complaint in this regard.

TNS: What makes you think that the long march failed in its purpose?

GBR: It is evident from the fact that the people of Pakistan have, by and large, ignored the PTI leadership’s call. The long march did not attract the large number of people the organisers had expected. Had the people taken to the streets, the PTI leadership would have been in a position to create unrest in the country.

TNS: Are there any PTI and PML-Q members opposed to the dissolution of the Provincial Assembly?

GBR: Of course. I have been told that a number of members from the treasury benches want to see the assembly complete its tenure. Some of them are in contact with PML-N leaders. I am of the strong opinion that the people of this province have given the members their mandate for a full term. Nobody should try to frustrate it.

TNS: Why do Pakistani politicians have an image problem? Are many of them involved in corrupt practices?

GBR: Politics is a noble cause. All politicians serve the public. In developed countries, the politicians run the system. Pakistan came into being after tireless efforts by politicians. However, a poor view of the political class has gained currency in Pakistan. Besides other factors the mistakes made by some politicians have contributed to it.

TNS: It is routine to see a number of cases being registered against politicians. They have to undergo lengthy and extensive court proceedings at the end of which they are proven innocent. Is this fair?

GBR: Of course, everybody should answer the charges brought against them. Politicians cannot claim exemption from this. However, the courts should decide the cases quickly. Unfortunately, politically-motivated bogus cases have been framed against some politicians in Pakistan to penalise them for their political positions. Some of them have even been behind bars.

For instance, one of our colleagues, Qamar-ul Islam of Rawalpindi was arrested in a false case and put behind bars for almost nine months. In the end he had to be set free as there was no evidence against him. Bogus cases were also registered against other PML-N leaders, including Mian Nawaz Sharif. Even Imran Khan during his tenure as prime minister was heard saying in public that he would remove the air-conditioning from the barracks where Sharif was kept. And yet, his government could not prove a single case against Sharif.

Keep in mind that the politicians represent millions of people. I personally many politicians who are honest and performed public duties with diligence and dedication. However, false cases were framed against them and this not only smeared their reputations, but also greatly hurt them and their families.

TNS: What brought you to politics?

GBR: Serving humanity, I believe, is a goal everyone should have in life. The fact is, I didn’t always intend to be a politician. However, my late father and some close friends convinced me that I should enter the arena. They said I could better serve the people if I did. I have contested four National Assembly elections and by the grace of God, won twice. I lost the 2002 and 2018 elections. However, the people recognise the forces that barred me from entering the National Assembly then.

TNS: What kind of career would you have, if you were not a politician?

GBR: I belong to a business-cum-agricultural family. I would have still wanted to serve the society.

TNS: What has been your greatest disappointment?

GBR: It has to be the realisation that even when has a good portfolio, one cannot always help people and solve their problems.

TNS: Imran Khan says he wants to bring about a healthy change in Pakistan, in fact build a new Pakistan. Then what’s wrong then if he takes to the streets? Is this not a democratic right?

GBR: You are right. It is his democratic right to protest and mobilise the public. However, there need to be some limits to this. No one can be allowed to take law into their hand and disturb the public peace. Also, see his performance in office. He made a lot of blunders and U-turns. He broke many promises he had made with the people of Pakistan during his 2018 election campaign. No new jobs, no new houses, no education and more than 80 per cent of the loan Pakistan has incurred since its inception – that is his performance.

The writer can be reached at ahsanzia155@gmail.com

‘The failure of their long march has baffled the PTI leaders’