The elusive consensus

Published: December 6, 2019

The government and the opposition are least expected to be in harmony with each other – anywhere in the world. But the acrimony prevailing between these two sides in our country is unparalleled and has gone to the extent of affecting the business of the state pretty seriously. The parliament is almost non-functional, with the business of legislation only running by fits and starts. A war of words on almost everything happening in the country – be that the handling of the economy by the government or its diplomatic dealings; the process of accountability or the functioning of the police – is only adding to the political uncertainty in the country. Many a constitutional matter requiring consensus between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition stands to suffer gravely. The constitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is a significant case in point.

The hostility between the government and the opposition has all but rendered the electoral watchdog dysfunctional. The two sides have failed to reach an agreement on the appointment of a new Chief Election Commission (CEC) to replace Sardar Raza Khan who retired yesterday. The ECP though has already been incomplete since January this year as deadlock also persists on the nomination of its two members – from Sindh and Balochistan. The matters – pertaining to the appointment of the CEC and the two ECP members – landed in the courts from where they have been referred back to the two opponents who disagree on literally everything. And what looms as another test in the same series of challenges is that the remaining two ECP members – from Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – are completing their two and a half years term just the next month.

Quite pertinent is thus the question: if our politicians cannot even agree on a regular appointment, how are they going to build consensus on bigger issues? Consensus politics is what the prevailing situation demands. The useless verbal bouts must now stop. The contest of who can shout louder and who can come up with a wittier jaw-breaking reply must now end. Given their bigger stake in the government, the PM and his men must step out first.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2019.

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