The PTI faces a 24-hour deadline to hand over the “terrorists” who, according to the Punjab government, have taken refuge at Imran Khan’s home in Zaman Park. The deadline was announced by the Punjab government, so the PTI won’t find much solace in the events of the past 24 hours. Some would argue that this is a day of reckoning that had been predicted years prior. This situation’s context is crucial. The National Security Committee, which met on Tuesday, spoke, largely restating what the ISPR had previously said.
The message is clear and strong: anyone found responsible for damaging or attacking infrastructure on May 9 will face legal action under the Pakistan Army Act and the Official Secrets Act, among other pertinent statutes. The COAS Gen. Asim Munir has also stated that all those accountable for “bringing shame to the nation on the Black Day of May 9” will be brought to justice. The federal government has stated that the PTI workers who attacked military sites will be punished under these laws.
The PTI has already lost three second-tier leaders, Aamir Mehmood Kiani, Sanjay Gangwani, and Mahmood Maulvi, as observers point to the party’s apparent “unraveling.” Will we hear more public declarations like those made by Fawad Chaudhry and Ali Zaidi when prominent figures in prison begin to consider their futures perhaps? But since “it ain’t over till it’s over” applies, it would be premature to declare the completion of such a starry-eyed undertaking.
It should be emphasized that since at least 2014, sensible analysts and political history students have been warning – mostly to the PTI – that the only way for democracy to advance is to realize that, despite all political competitiveness, talking to the other side is always your best bet. We had often urged a cessation of the polarization and some attempt at a return to parliamentary politics throughout these most recent crises as well. And yet, here we are with a party that has fallen prey to its own hubris and blindness, a state that may be moving towards harsher penalties, and a government that is notable only in its almost complete absence from decision-making.
A word of caution should be issued to all parties involved in this situation: the judiciary needs to regain the esteemed standing it previously enjoyed. Yes, courts must be perceived as administering justice, but justice must be impervious to its own biases. There is concern that actions like bringing justice to non-civil forums may be used in the absence of a functioning judiciary. That should be prevented.
Civilian laws already exist and function just as well. The PTI and its leader must understand that reclaiming their moment in the spotlight would depend on them opting for a more democratic political route devoid of undermining institutional symbols.
Additionally, the administration might wish to recall its prior statements regarding the rule of law, justice, and the use of arrest and detention. The May 9 attacks on state property, which were appalling and inexcusable, as well as the ensuing arrests and detentions, are currently casting a dreadful image of Pakistan in the eyes of the rest of the world. Democracies do not operate like this.