Sunday, August 3, 2014

Daily Times Editorial Aug 4, 2014

PTI’s confusion In the run up to what is being billed as the ‘big show’ on August 14, contradictory voices are being heard from the ranks of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) that is orchestrating the long march to Islamabad. Reports say PTI chief Imran Khan has asked for the resignations of all his party’s members from the Assemblies. However, the party’s information secretary Shireen Mazari says no such decision has been taken yet and the issue would be discussed in a party leadership meeting on August 14. Whether any such decision has been taken or not, the idea makes no sense. If the PTI elected members resign from the National Assembly, that will not bring down the incumbent government since its simple majority in the house will not be dented. By-elections will then follow within 60 days according to the law. If the PTI elected members participate in these by-elections, they will suffer a huge financial burden in fighting two elections within a little over a year. If they abstain (and participation would negate the whole purpose of resigning), this would mean leaving the field clear for other parties, of whom the ruling PML-N might well turn out to be the main beneficiary, another outcome that would negate the whole PTI campaign against the government. And if the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) PTI members of the provincial Assembly were to resign, that would bring down the party’s government, a result that would be a loss to the party only, with no gain against the PML-N governments in the Centre or Punjab. If Imran Khan thinks that his party members’ resignation en masse would create some sort of constitutional crisis that would cause the government to tumble and magically open the door to his ascent to power, cold water has been poured on that by the ECP. The ECP declared on Sunday that there is no provision in the law for mid-term elections in the wake of the resignation of some members of the opposition. It has reiterated that by-elections would be held on such seats within the mandatory period of 60 days. In addition, any move to resign en masse at this point would lose the PTI a certain number of seats in the upcoming Senate elections. Taken as a whole therefore, any notion of en masse resignations makes little if any sense. The question arises therefore whether the PTI chief is serious in demanding the resignation of his party’s elected members (a move sure to prove unpopular with them) or is merely posturing in the mistaken belief that this would put some kind of political pressure on the government. Meanwhile federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed is convinced Imran Khan’s demand to revisit the vote in four constituencies is merely a smokescreen for his desire to topple the government. Even if the honourable minister’s view is accepted, he should know that mere agitation and sit-ins are unlikely to unseat the government, short of an insurrection, and the PTI is hardly an insurrectionary party. However, it is interesting to note that many parties are positioning themselves in relation to the looming events of August 14. MQM’s Altaf Hussain advises Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down and appoint another prime minister from his party’s ranks in order to “save Pakistan” from political confrontation and chaos, while his deputy Farooq Sattar has suddenly ‘discovered’ some unspecified “demands” the government must concede through talks/negotiations or run the risk of seeing the MQM coming out on the streets. Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq, whose party is a coalition ally of the PTI in KP, sees no reason to dissolve the provincial Assembly or the PTI-JI coalition government in KP. The PPP, for reasons of its own no doubt, now wants to make the transition from a “friendly” opposition (of which it stands accused by critics such as the PTI) to a ‘real’ one. Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah, while bemoaning the fact that the government did not find it necessary to convene an in-camera joint session of parliament before invoking Article 245 to deploy the army in Islamabad, now wants the issue discussed nevertheless in a joint session post facto. All these developments point to one irreducible fact: the government has failed to reach out to and carry with it the diverse political forces in the country, an oversight it should still try to correct to avoid unnecessary friction in the polity on real or imagined issues.

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