Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Daily Times Editorial Aug 14, 2014

Imran Khan’s agenda Today is an Independence Day with a difference. Everyone in the country is holding his or her breath in trepidation at what might transpire in the long march that Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have visited upon us. On virtually the eve of the march, Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif finally made it to the television screens to deliver an address to the country on the crisis that has been brewing for weeks if not months now. In his address, the PM proffered what may be called the ‘final offer’ in the shape of an olive branch to resolve the impasse. He announced that the government would ask the Supreme Court to constitute a three-member commission to examine the charge that there had been rigging in the 2013 elections. This is the charge on which Imran Khan has finally arrived via his earlier, more modest accusations of anomalies in four seats. Khan has relentlessly pursued a strategy of escalating demands, starting from four allegedly contentious seats to 40, and then finally a rejection of the election as a whole. Along the way he has littered the landscape with accusations against virtually all and sundry of being the authors of or complicit in the rigging that he claims robbed him and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) of its rightful electoral victory, not sparing even his erstwhile ‘heroes’ Fakhruddin G Ebrahim and former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. The PM in his address very soberly dealt with Imran’s allegations about rigging, pointing out that there had not been a shred of evidence provided so far to back up these charges. Coming down firmly against any attempt at creating anarchy, violence and bloodshed, the PM argued that with the setting up of such a commission, the whole fracas about the elections and their validity should die down and Imran Khan should sit down to talk to the government on this and the whole gamut of issues that are agitating him. By his rejection of the PM’s announcement of a judicial commission and his refusal to meet the PM before the march today, Imran Khan may have inadvertently let the cat out of the bag. This kind of commission was originally demanded by Imran himself. Therefore its rejection at this point reflects the startling suggestion that it may not be due only to the Khan’s well known streak of stubbornness but the outcome of a more sinister agenda. While Imran is immovable in his intransigence, many other political parties, including the PPP, have welcomed the PM’s move as providing a way out of the impasse. While every sane citizen of the country desires that the day passes peacefully without violence or bloodshed, hardly anyone can subscribe to the notion or be willing to set a precedent that street power trumps an elected parliament, agitation robs the polity of a democratic mandate, and unsubstantiated charges form the basis for the removal of a PM and government that enjoy a comfortable majority in parliament. That way lies anarchy and chaos. If consciously or unconsciously this is what Imran Khan is aiming for, it cannot be considered any service to Pakistan. While the superior judiciary enjoys trust and credibility in far greater measure than ever before in our history, it is a mistake to think that every issue, including political matters, can be adjudicated through the courts. Asking the High Courts to intervene in matters political runs the risk of exposing the courts to getting embroiled in controversies without necessarily being able to do much about the trends and events playing themselves out on the political front. The Lahore High Court on the eve of the march ordered the blocking containers removed immediately, the stoppage of harassment and arrests of PTI workers, and the release of those already detained. The order may prove too late in coming since today’s events have already been set in motion and the court’s orders may well be impossible to implement before developments on the ground overtake them. Interestingly, apart from Qadri and some ‘tonga’ parties, Imran stands more alone than ever. Almost every other party of note has supported the latest offer of the PM as a reasonable way out. But ‘reasonable’ does not apply it seems to the Khan, who is intent on holding not just the country, but the hard won democratic system hostage. Pray for better outcomes, but don’t hold your breath.

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