Our stakeholders have resorted to writing letters and making statements of disappointment to each other due to the political acrimony in the country’s power corridors. The most recent message is from Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who has responded to President Arif Alvi’s letter to the PM regarding the elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
President Alvi’s communiqué, according to PM Shehbaz, reads like a PTI press release, is ‘blatantly partisan in nature,’ and supports Imran Khan’s ‘one-sided and anti-government’ views. The president had written a letter to Prime Minister Shehbaz on Friday, urging him to follow the Supreme Court’s orders regarding elections in Punjab and KP. Shehbaz, on the other hand, claims that Alvi’s letter ‘did not reflect the president’s constitutional role’ and that the president has been doing the PTI’s bidding since taking office during the previous government’s tenure.
While this may appear harsh, independent observers have also noted in recent months that the president has failed to fulfil the duties of the constitutional head of state, who should be apolitical. However, there is little to justify Pakistan’s current political crisis. And, regardless of the president’s role in political matters over the last year or so, his urging the government to hold elections is him adhering to his constitutional obligations.
The Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to postpone polls in Punjab until October 8, and the ruling PDM’s support for the move, not only speaks volumes about the country’s political polarisation but also serves as an alarming indicator of how bad our political stage has become.
It is unfortunate that a democratically elected civilian government believes it is acceptable not to hold elections within the constitutionally mandated time frame. While some have cited the coalition government’s anxiety over elections, many observers have noted that the devil-may-care attitude may also result from the coalition parties’ perception that Imran Khan has been able to get away with everything and has only gained popularity rather than facing any repercussions, so why should they play nice?
Experts have previously highlighted that the PML-N wished it hadn’t allowed Imran’s 2014 dharna to destabilise Pakistan’s politics, knowing full well how potent his support was. While this may partially explain the reasoning behind the present, almost compulsive wave of arrests and detentions, there is no justification for engaging in such politics on a legal, political, or ethical level.
The politics of vengeance may be the most appealing option for any government in our country, but it has only served to weaken politicians in the long run. Nawaz Sharif and the late Benazir Bhutto recognised this and signed the Democracy Charter. Imran Khan is still not ready; some believe that because his politics thrive on chaos, he will never view negotiation favourably.
The burden then falls on the government, whether unfairly or not. Yes, in any democratic country, none of this would be tolerated—neither how Imran came to power, nor how the opposition was treated during his tenure, nor what is happening now. If we begin to rely on ‘if it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander’ politics, we may end up in a much worse situation than we began in 2008. For their own survival, all political parties must come together and chart a course forward.