Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has set a condition to return to the National Assembly. He stated that if the American cipher is investigated, he will return to the assembly. Earlier Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial requested that PTI legislators return to parliament. The chief justice made the remarks while hearing the PTI’s appeal against the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) verdict on the acceptance of PTI MNA’s phased resignations. The CJP has correctly reminded the PTI that voters elected them for a five-year term and that the cost of holding by-elections on 123 seats would be a huge burden on the exchequer given the devastation caused by the floods. Given the circumstances and the country’s political polarization, this is sound advice.
Given the country’s current circumstances and an obviously fading narrative, one would think the PTI would pause and reconsider its antagonism-based politics. Several times, it has been suggested that parliament should serve as the main battleground between the government and the opposition. The PTI, on the other hand, has remained steadfast in its main demand: “We will return to parliament only if Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announces a date for the next general elections.” To put it simply, if it wasn’t already an absurd demand, it is now. A flood-ravaged country that is practically walking around with a begging bowl has a political class that clearly does not believe in the power and supremacy of parliament and has instead focused largely on street power demonstrations. While one is not opposed to the right to protest – and street protest has a long and dignified history in our country as well – it is a little strange that our politicians, at least those in the PTI, have decided that parliament is no longer their first port of call.
Instead of raising issues on the House floor, their instinct is to take to the streets. The PTI has two provincial governments, but it also wants to reclaim power at the national level. If the party believes it can force elections through street protests and long marches, it is mistaken. Despite having the support and backing of powerful quarters in 2014, the PTI was unable to manage the government’s exit despite its prolonged dharna. With the ‘neutrality’ factor in play, does the PTI really believe that its admittedly popular status will force an early election through jalsas and dharnas?
The enthusiasm for jalsa and dharna power can be traced back to PTI’s dharna politics in 2014. Other political parties have since followed suit, instead of fighting their battles in parliament. The irony of ‘people’s representatives’ refusing to engage in dialogue or even animated debate while waxing lyrical about democracy should not be overlooked. Perhaps this is why, despite the youth’s increasing politicization, there is so little trust in the ‘process’ and the ‘system’. Why would the PTI refuse to sit in parliament and challenge the government as the opposition?
If they believe this government is not credible, they should remember that it won its seats in the same election that resulted in Imran becoming Prime Minister. There will be no way out of this crisis until all political stakeholders sit down to negotiate issues such as the date of the next elections, electoral reforms, the role of the ECP, and other issues. The PTI must recognize that it cannot always rely on intervention support. Supremacy of parliament means the supremacy of the people; handing it over voluntarily is why politics is where it is today.