Heading for Armageddon?

Is there a constitutional way to avoid commotion in the heart of Islamabad?


Imtiaz Gul March 21, 2022
The writer heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad and is the author of ‘Pakistan: Pivot of Hizbut Tahrir’s Global Caliphate’

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Now that both the ruling PTI and the combined opposition — led by a non-parliamentary cleric (Fazl-ur Rehman) have chosen Islamabad’s D-Chowk for a power showdown around March 27 ahead of the vote on no-confidence motion, should we assume this might turn out to be the Armageddon, a watershed face-off between the contesting political stakeholders?

The New Testament describes the last battle between good and evil before the Day of Judgement as Armageddon. This also implies a dramatic and catastrophic conflict, especially one seen as likely to destroy the world or the human race.

Prime Minister Imran Khan wants to up the ante by gathering a million for his public rally in front of the Parliament House. The PDM gurus have also asked workers to march on the capital, promising thereby exciting, potentially violent days between March 24 and 27 i.e. immediately after the OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Islamabad.

This determination by the stakeholders demonstrates their resolve to trump each other in the show of power. But what about some other stakeholders, say the President, the chief of army staff and the governors of the four provinces.

Is there a constitutional way to avoid commotion in the heart of Islamabad? And who can do this if needed at all in these challenging and critical times for the dominant majority of Pakistanis?

Here are, perhaps, those who can act to forestall ugly and bloody situations in Islamabad; Under the Article 42 of the Constitution of Pakistan the President undertakes that “as President of Pakistan, I will discharge my duties, and perform my functions, honestly, to the best of my ability, faithfully in accordance with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well- being and prosperity of Pakistan.”

Will only a physical Armageddon push him into some action like declaration of emergency? In his oath under Article 91, the Prime Minister undertakes, inter alia that “as Prime Minister of Pakistan, I will discharge my duties, and perform my functions, honestly, to the best of my ability, faithfully in accordance with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well- being and prosperity of Pakistan.”

Now that he is a de facto lame duck in the parliament, will Khan step back from his lofty rhetoric to cool off temperatures “in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan?”

Under the Article 65, Members of National Assembly and the Senate undertake to perform “my functions honestly, to the best of my ability, faithfully, in accordance with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the law, and the rules of the Assembly (or Senate), and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan.”

Will the MPs from both sides recall their oath and give up their brinkmanship in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan?

And under the Article 244 — that relates to Members of the Armed Forces — members pledge to “bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan and uphold the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan which embodies the will of the people, that I will not engage myself in any political activities whatsoever and that I will honestly and faithfully serve Pakistan in the Pakistan Army (or Navy or Air Force) as required by and under the law.”

If the Armageddon really hits Islamabad, will the members of the armed forces shun the “neutrality” and uphold the interest of the people of Pakistan as promised under the aforementioned article, also in conjunction with the Article 245 on “aid of civil power when called upon to do so?”

Primarily, all key stakeholders i.e. President, PM, Members of Parliament, and the Armed Forces’ chiefs undertake to always act “in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan.”

This constitutes the minimum common denominator to the primary responsibility they take when assuming the office. This means, inter alia, 442 Members of Parliament also vow to act in the interests of the country.

But, will all those MPs — who are pushing for an Armageddon-like situation at D-Chowk to oust PM Khan, blowing trumpets of self-righteousness — not be violating their oath?

Can the armed forces — who consider themselves as the guardians of the nearly 882,000 square kilometer territory and guarantors of peace inside — stay aloof if political stakeholders lock horns and thus jeopardise the country’s internal peace?

Will the President not violate his oath if he — instead of acting as a neutral arbiter — merely watched the intense showdown as a silent spectator?

Can they forego personal ambitions and join hands to prevent Pakistan’s image abroad from getting further sullied and tarnished? The ultimate and only sufferers in case of violence will be the canon-fodder i.e. poor, hapless footsoldiers.

The ruling elites must not put the integrity and the image of the country on the line for personal egos and power projection.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 21th, 2022.

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