Politico-legal impasse: What’s the solution?

Experts say elections or grand dialogue need of the hour


Rizwan Shehzad   July 26, 2022
PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD:

As key stakeholders go for each other’s jugular, a toxic brew of political brinkmanship is brewing in the cauldron of politics amid economic instability.

The duelling over the country’s disputed political capital has seemed to set the country back to a familiar state of affairs: two rivals dragging the judiciary into the thicket of politics for technical knockout of their opponents.

However, the actors are busy wrangling instead of repairing the economy and bringing stability to the country as experts clamour for a grand dialogue to produce another ‘charter of democracy’ to remedy the deepening crisis.

Imperilled, the coalition government drew battle lines on Monday and accused the judiciary of “bench-fixing” in crucial cases, continuously giving “discriminatory” judgments and handing out one interpretation of the Constitution to PTI chief Imran Khan, and another to the ruling alliance.

Amid the politico-legal impasse, the political experts have suggested that a larger dialogue leading to signing a document like the 'Charter of Democracy' was the need of the hour. For some others, fresh elections were the solution to the ongoing crisis.

“Pakistan’s current political conflicts and economic problems require a larger dialogue of the kind that was held among political parties in 2006 and resulted in the Charter of Democracy, and the later consensus building over the 18th Amendment,” political analyst Zaigham Khan said.

Zaigham, who is an anthropologist and development professional, said that dialogue appears to be difficult as such a consensus among the political elite does not suit the PTI’s populist politics that thrives on delegitimizing all other political players. “I do not see an early resolution to our political or economic problems,” he said.

The president of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) Ahmed Bilal Mehboob also called for making peace with the opponents, saying PML-N and PPP learnt it the hard way but ended up signing a Charter of Democracy, hoping that the “PTI and PDM also do not waste their energies on confrontation.”

“I hope PTI learns this lesson which PMLN and PPP had learnt after incurring a huge cost due to confrontation in the 80s and 90s,” he said, “they ended up signing a Charter of Democracy.”

However, Professor Dr Rasul Bakhsh Rais said that the “solution of the crisis is in fresh elections with a clear mandate for a political party”, saying “until that happens I don’t think this confrontational politics between a very broad and diverse alliance of parties opposed to PTI will end.”

Is the judiciary part of the solution?

For Zaigham, Pakistan is a segmented polity where we find various sections of the political elite in constant conflict over power. “The judiciary could have been a part of the solution if it played the role of a neutral arbiter,” Zaigham said. “Unfortunately,” he said, “the judiciary too has become a part of the problem due to the judicialisation of politics and politicisation of the judiciary.”

Zaigham said that the “current politico-legal impasse can be directly linked to earlier verdicts of the higher judiciary that carry internal contradictions which will be hard to reconcile while passing a judgement on the issue of the Punjab government.”

“Political instability was already there and SC judgment regarding Article 63A has further aggravated it,” the PILDAT president said.

For Mehboob, political stability will not end unless political parties, especially PTI, make peace with the existence of its opponent parties and establishes a working relationship like opposing parties do in democracies.

“Political opponents, no matter how much you despise them, cannot be wished away,” he said.

Rais, the Professor of Political Science at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS, said that the real problem for Pakistan’s present economic situation was political instability, which was caused by the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan moved back in April 2022.

Since then, the professor said, the country continues to be in an unending crisis and the solution is nothing but fresh elections, saying there is no other option. Without that, he said, “I don’t think any government can provide stability or take very bold, timely and difficult decisions to restore economic stability of the country.”

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