Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Daily Times Editorial Jan 8, 2015

‘Containered’ again The country has barely had time to draw breath after the (for some) heart stopping events in parliament revolving around the passing of the 21st constitutional amendment and the amendment to the Army Act 1952 to try religion-exploiting terrorists in military courts. That did not deter the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, freshly returned from London, to threaten the government once again that if it did not set up the judicial commission he has been demanding to investigate the alleged rigging in the 2013 elections by January 18, he would restart his agitation. It may be recalled that Imran Khan called off his four-month agitation in deference to the Peshawar massacre of school children on December 16. But immediately after parliament passed the constitutional amendment on Tuesday with the PTI remaining absent as it has been since this summer, Imran Khan has not wasted a minute in returning to his agitational mode. The negotiations between the government and the PTI have clearly not got very far. Both sides have, under a prior agreement, refrained from sharing details regarding the talks and in particular what divides the two sides. So the only real hint we have on that is the casual comment by Imran Khan that the kind of judicial commission the government is prepared to set up is not acceptable to the PTI. Not that this leaves us any the clearer about what is that ‘kind’ of judicial commission and what exactly are the PTI’s objections to it. As far as the alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections is concerned, it remains unproved and if the results of the investigation under the aegis of an election tribunal into the votes cast in NA-122 (where Imran Khan was defeated by the current Speaker of the National Assembly Mr Ayaz Sadiq) are anything to go by, the PTI’s case may have suffered a setback. While Imran Khan claims thousands of votes were bogus or rejected on technicalities in this and other constituencies where leading lights of the PTI lost, the recount in NA-122 ended up increasing Ayaz Sadiq’s votes marginally. Of course the election tribunal has yet to present its final report, but the portents do not look good for the PTI. Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid did not let the opportunity to refute Imran Khan’s ‘thousands of bogus votes’ assertion go unchallenged on the basis of the NA-122 investigation preliminary outcome. It is a pity that Imran Khan and the PTI’s belated obsession with alleged rigging has blinded them to the ground realities and situation in the country. The PTI should have been in parliament to contribute to the political class’ ownership of the struggle against terrorism, reservations about military courts notwithstanding, especially after giving the amendments their blessings in the All Parties Conference (APC). Despite showing up in the APC, the PTI has once again set its face against the rest of the political parties in parliament and arguably the country, united against terrorism after Peshawar. At this time in particular, when the situation requires the entire country’s focus on the struggle against terrorism and not the distraction of another ‘container’ agitation, PTI and Imran Khan are once more painting themselves into a corner and galloping into isolation on their quixotic quest. That having been said, however, this should not be construed as license for the government to sit on its hands and just let Imran Khan whistle in the wind. That may turn out to be a temptation too far as it could reignite the divisions previously witnessed in the country during the ‘container revolution’ and which will certainly draw attention away from the task and challenge at hand against terrorism. Therefore the government should, if it has nothing to hide or fear, set up the judicial commission (with the help of the Supreme Court) and allow this canker in our side to be dealt with once and for all. Only then, when these wounds have healed and become just a memory, will we as a people be back on course against the existential threat posed by barbaric fanatics.

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