Saturday, December 13, 2014

Daily Times Editorial Dec 14, 2014

PTI’s Karachi show Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI’s) ongoing circus of protests and sit-ins rolled into Karachi on Friday amidst fears of violence a la Faisalabad and the reservations of traders and citizens about the disruption of normal life as a result. Fortunately, the fear of violence appeared misplaced as the day passed without any major incident. However, citizens’ lives and business were profoundly disturbed by the blockage of many points on the main roads leading to Shahrah-e-Faisal, the main route of Imran Khan’s caravan from the airport. While these central districts of the city were shut down, the rest of the city appeared to get on with life without too much of a ripple. Perhaps the biggest two factors in this peaceful outcome were that the PPP Sindh government not only did not try to stop the protests and sit-ins, it positively facilitated them, while the biggest and strongest party in the city, the MQM, made no attempt to intervene despite the fact that the PTI emerged in the 2013 elections as the first real challenge to the MQM’s iron grip on Karachi. MQM chief Altaf Hussain had set the tone on the eve of the protest by stating that the PTI had the right to stage peaceful protests. Since Altaf Hussain’s word is law for the members and supporters of the MQM, that sealed the deal. The manner of handling the protest by the PPP government and the MQM holds many important lessons for the PML-N governments in Islamabad and Lahore. It may be recalled that before he joined hands with Imran Khan earlier this year, Tahirul Qadri had made his first foray into ‘containerised’ agitation in Islamabad during the PPP government’s tenure. The peaceful handling and final dispersal of that sit-in was credited to Asif Zardari’s astute political handling. The PML-N on the other hand, has arguably shot itself in the foot twice at least, once in Lahore when the Punjab government’s out-of-control police shot and killed Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek workers in Model Town, Lahore, and then the other day when PML-N workers were let loose to confront the PTI in Faisalabad, leading to the murder of at least one PTI supporter. As to the rally/sit-in in Karachi itself, there is not much new to report. Imran Khan made his usual case regarding the need for a judicial commission to inquire into alleged rigging in the 2013 election, which he believes stole his mandate. Not only has he reversed himself on some of the more unsavoury remarks he has been making against the judiciary, a trend that, according now to Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed, may well have been responsible for the Supreme Court’s seeming reluctance to respond to the prime minister’s letter of August 13 requesting the apex court to set up the judicial commission desired by Imran Khan, the PTI leader is now expressing his unequivocal confidence in the Supreme Court (and by implication any judicial commission set up by it). In his usual display of premature overconfidence though, Imran Khan states that those found responsible for rigging must be punished for the first time in the country’s history if a new Pakistan is to emerge, after fresh elections, based on the rule of law and merit. The government on the other hand is saying it has no objection to the judicial commission and its audit of the 2013 elections. The question lingers whether, based on his track record of u-turns, Imran Khan will commit to accepting the findings of the judicial commission even if they do not deliver what he hankers for. PTI leader Asad Umar says there is no deadlock between the PTI and the government, who are once again engaging in talks on the issue, of the PTI demand for an Ordinance to make the judicial commission’s report binding on the government. In that case, in all fairness, what is good for the goose must also be good for the gander. Will the PTI accept the Ordinance as binding on it too?

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