Iceberg Ahead: Perils Of The Political Impasse For Pakistanis

Iceberg Ahead: Perils Of The Political Impasse For Pakistanis
The people of Pakistan today appear to be passengers on the doomed ocean liner the Titanic, plunging head-on into a huge iceberg that will take it to the icy depth of the North Atlantic and will be recorded as the greatest sea disaster of its time. The elite appear to be oblivious of the impending disaster and our political leaders just refuse to pull us back from the edge of the precipice. The opposition led by the cult-like leader Imran Khan is bent upon destroying the edifice of democracy and there appears to be no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. With no solution to the terrible political mess, the situation is fast heading for the point of no return.

The economy is in a free-fall and the spike in religious extremism and militant violence is now a visible threat to the security of the country, and yet the political situation remains chaotic and disastrous. Faced with a myriad of challenges, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called for an All Parties Conference – which the PTI did not attend and which did nothing to lower the rising political pressures and tensions. It is clear that the political leaders are in no mood call a ceasefire in the ongoing battle, and they are unwilling to begin finding solutions to the present economic, political and social crisis that has engulfed the country. Political uncertainty is the result of the present political battle within the elite of the nation – and the situation is getting uglier and messier with each passing day.

Imran Khan played his trump card by dissolving the provincial assemblies of Punjab and KP, but this shrewd move opened another Pandora’s box and proved to be fuel on the raging fires of confrontation between the government and the opposition. With this move it was hoped by the PTI that the government will call for general elections, but the ruling coalition stuck to their original stance that general elections can only be held after the national assembly completes its full term of five years. This situation left the federal government with the only constitutional obligation of holding elections in the provinces of Punjab and KP within the stipulated constitutional requirement of 90 days. In spite of announcements and statements by the leadership of the PDM, there appears to be no sign that the government is serious about complying with the ruling of the Supreme Court to hold elections in Punjab and KP. While the president has announced a date for holding elections in Punjab, the KP governor is still not clear about the date for his province.

Statements by the federal Interior Minister and other leaders definitely indicate their defiance of the orders of the Supreme Court. There can be some valid reservations and questions about the suo motu notice by the Supreme Court and on the formation of the bench by the Chief Justice, but the majority judgment of 3 to 2 cannot be denied or debated. There is no ambiguity or doubt in the constitutional provision of holding the elections within 90 days of the dissolution of an assembly and it appears that the ruling coalition is avoiding facing the electorate for a fresh mandate.

The head of the PDM Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman has called for the postponement of elections in the provinces due to the economic and financial crisis and the grave security situation in KP. Political leaders from both sides of the divide are also spitting fire and brimstone against the superior judiciary, accusing them of taking sides and providing relief to one particular party and its leaders. The Constitution, Parliament, executive and all state institutions have become sad casualties in this ugly and sordid power game at the highest levels.

Scattered provincial assemblies’ elections may create some political and constitutional crises of their own and this anomaly can only be avoided if the government shows the courage and political wisdom by calling early elections to the national assembly. It appears the government is bent upon prolonging its rule when it is crystal clear that it has lost its mandate due to poor economic and political governance.

After almost one year in the driving seat, the government of Shehbaz Sharif leaves a lot to be desired in terms of good governance and economic management. The cabinet consists of over 70 ministers, advisors and special assistants and some of them are without a portfolio. This gigantic cabinet is a huge burden on the national exchequer and has become a laughingstock in the eyes of the media. The present political leaders look like a band of jokers in a political circus rather than a serious government trying to confront and solve the serious economic and political problems facing the country. The leaders of the PDM keep shouting from the rooftops that they have sacrificed their political careers to save the country. The nation is in no mood to believe their cries of innocence and sacrifice when it is crystal clear that the yearlong rule of the PDM has been a monumental disaster.

The ground reality today is that the political chaos, the ugly power struggle and the appeals to the higher judiciary to settle political disputes are all happening when the nation is faced with serious crises of the economy and national security. This state of affairs shows us the total lack of care or concern by the top political leadership and a disconnect from reality. This widening political divide and polarisation of society and the dangerous consequences of the future general elections and its aftermath. Leading political parties and their leaders are on a collision course, not willing to agree on anything and confronting each other on every issue. There appears to be no chance of any consensus regarding the future polls or even accepting the results of the elections. Political stability and economic betterment are still elusive elements when the country needs them desperately.