It has been exactly one year since former Prime Minister Imran Khan was deposed and his government lost power through the constitutional process of a vote of no confidence. It has also been a year of political turmoil, with the PTI essentially in protest for the previous 365 days.
Punjab has been the most stark example of this disarray, with scarcely a week passing without some new twist in the political story. This has been an unexpected reality check for a province that has grown accustomed to being not only the focus of power but also of relative quiet in the country. Even after a year, however, things are far from settled. Pakistan is currently in the midst of a judicial crisis, an economic crisis, and a political power crisis, not to mention an impending security crisis.
In terms of the judicial crisis, it does not appear to be abating. In a letter that was released on Saturday, Justice Qazi Faez Isa stated that decisions made in a trial cannot replace the constitution since they are “overcast with the “autocratic shadow.” referring to the six-member bench that disregarded his order and put an end to the suo motu process.
The government is also considering measures to have the Supreme Court (Practise and Procedure) Bill, 2023, passed today in a joint sitting of parliament, despite the fact that President Arif Alvi sent the bill unsigned. Because this was an entirely predictable manoeuvre by a president who has continued to wear his party’s hat even after it has been deposed, parliament will most likely adopt the bill again, and it will become law in 10 days, as required by the highest law of the land.
The economic and security crises are difficulties that the government should be addressing but can’t or won’t because of the numerous fights being fought on tiny little hills by all political (and apolitical) players in the country. Despite the Supreme Court’s verdict, no poll in Punjab is on the horizon. The funding, which has yet to be delivered to the ECP, is under question, as is the three-member verdict by the Supreme Court on elections in Punjab.
The notes written by Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Mandokhail, and now Justice Qazi Faez Isa may not overturn the Supreme Court’s decision—and let it be clear that no judge has disputed the 90-day timeline for elections—but they have cast a pall over the entire situation. With so much at stake, one would think a full-court bench would be in order right now to smooth over everything that has come to light in the judiciary over the last few weeks. This would also end the debate about the Punjab/Khyber Pakhtunkhwa election. We need some calm after a year of ugly politics, even worse solutions, and even uglier blame games.
Politicians must put aside their egos and collaborate. The judiciary must have its house in order or else justice would lose its loftier stature, which it must always maintain. Our economic planners must determine where we are going. And our security planners must ensure that the decisions made at the NSC meeting are carried out. This has been one year too long for such upheaval. A dash of ‘normalcy’ will be appreciated by all.