Navigating A Way Out Of The Political Quagmire

Navigating A Way Out Of The Political Quagmire
The current political imbroglio has plunged the nation into a crisis that continues deepening without showing any sign of a resolution to the enmeshed issues that are consistently eroding the sanctity and supremacy of key state institutions that they once enjoyed. Blaming the past is futile as the situation worsens day by day.

To overcome this perilous state of affairs, all contesting forces must come together and work towards a solution that can bring them together on one platform, and work together for the progress and development of the country and its institutions.

But the question is, how?

Achieving such unity is an arduous task due to the consistent violations of constitutional boundaries, unbridled interventions of one institution into another’s jurisdiction, and an egoistic desire of all political contenders to turn every situation into their own favor, regardless of its outcome. At the altar is democracy and a sacrificial ritual is being performed every day by all contenders, with the claim that it is being done for the glory of democracy. Amidst this turmoil, the fundamental question remains: are politicians, institutions, and the people genuinely interested in strengthening democracy in the country?

Democracy, while essential, holds different meanings for each stakeholder involved, making consensus elusive. The country has reached a point where every proposed political solution runs into a dispute from one or more political forces, regardless of its democratic nature. Moreover, key institutions often maneuver situations to protect their own interests, exacerbating the crisis. The saying "too many cooks spoil the broth" aptly describes the current scenario, where multiple actors hinder progress and perpetuate chaos.

Three significant forces play a role in the ongoing political chaos: politicians, the judiciary, and the establishment, represented by the military. The military, with a legacy of political influence, has historically exerted dominant control over the nation's politics. Surprisingly, during the recent opposition-led no-confidence motion against the ruling party, the military announced its neutrality and withdrew support from the government. This unprecedented move acknowledged the establishment's unconstitutional interference and raised questions about its past involvement. Meanwhile, the ruling party of the time, PTI, being directly affected by this change in the policy, denounced the military's neutrality as a conspiracy against its rule, indicating the power dynamics at play. The party leaders and their followers bought this narrative and spread it around to pull public support to the goal of reversing this conspiracy.

The political polarization, which has existed long before PTI's ouster, has intensified undoubtedly due to the undemocratic attitudes displayed by PTI chief Imran Khan. His refusal to engage in dialogue with political opponents, alongside his manicured narrative of persistent corruption allegations, has created a significant roadblock to finding a mutually agreeable solution. Even after admitting that corruption allegations were influenced by the establishment, Khan clings to his favored slogan, further deepening divisions and distancing his party from other political forces. By shutting doors and pursuing a solo fight, all he did was undermine the potential for constructive dialogue.

While the establishment was claiming neutrality and the politicians were engaged in divisive rhetoric, the judiciary made several judgments that further complicated the political divide. For instance, the Supreme Court's order to hold elections for the Punjab Assembly on a specific date, despite being constitutional, faced resistance from the government. Furthermore, the court's decision to incarcerate Imran Khan on corruption charges in the Al-Qadir Trust case fueled outrage among his supporters, leading to acts of vandalism that mainly targeted army assets and installations. It was a repeat of what PTI did back in 2014 during the famous dharna (sit-in) agitation at D Chowk in Islamabad.

The only exception was the target of the agitation - instead of the police, the army became its target this time. Encouraged by the situation, the militant outfit, Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), also took part in the agitation and claimed that, for two days, TTP men were also with the protesters to target state installations and they were successful in achieving their targets. Whether or not this claim is true, the absence of any terror attacks on those days adds some validation to this assertion.

The PTI's inclination toward violence and favoring terrorists over politicians raises concerns about their commitment to democratic norms. Unfortunately, ruling politicians are contemplating setting up military courts to try so-called political activists involved in the crimes on May 9th. Furthermore, the Chief Justice’s friendly remarks and gestures towards Imran Khan during his appearance in court for bail in the Al-Qadir case raises questions about the judiciary's impartiality. Granting bail and extending similar facilities in other cases sends a disconcerting message of approval to the acts of violence committed by PTI agitators

In this complex situation, the Supreme Court's call for political dialogue carries limited weight. The ongoing crisis involves not only politicians, but state institutions as well. It is crucial for all stakeholders, including politicians, the judiciary, and the establishment, to adopt a collaborative approach to resolving the underlying conflicts and take a common stand. Only through collective effort and a commitment to democratic principles can the nation navigate a path out of this quagmire.

Overcoming the present challenges requires an end to constitutional violations, institutional overreach, and self-serving agendas. By fostering unity, engaging in constructive dialogue, and upholding democratic principles, there is hope for the country to emerge from this crisis. Are the politicians and the institutions capable of that?

The author is a freelance journalist and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Research & Security Studies