Pursuit of justice abroad amidst domestic discontent


Durdana Najam June 20, 2024
The writer is a public policy analyst based in Lahore. She tweets @durdananajam

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Political instability has been Pakistan’s hallmark. Nearly every political party has crossed a nasty path with the powers that be, leading to its at times unconstitutional and, on other occasions, constitutional removal. However, never before has any political party gone so far as to involve international establishments to get the so-called electoral “justice”. The PTI has done exactly that. The irony is that a country considered the main orchestrator of Imran Khan’s removal is now approached to intervene.

The PTI-leaning Pakistani diaspora in the US and the lobbying firm hired by the party have been actively pursuing a singular agenda: linking the issuance of US military and security assistance to Pakistan with course corrections in the country that include stopping military intervention in the political, judicial and economic spheres.

The party has involved several congressmen and congresswomen who have sought amendments to the National Defence Authorization Act. Some have written letters to the Secretary of State requesting reports on the irregularities and violations of human rights in Pakistan. A few have requested the Defence Secretary to prioritise the promotion and protection of democracy and human rights in Pakistan. Many members of Congress have even asked their government not to recognise the government formed after the February 2024 elections. Not to forget the letter written to the IMF previously, prompting the lending agency to ensure that the funds released are linked to free, fair, and transparent polls.

PTI claims that it won the February 2024 elections with a landslide and that, through deliberate intervention by the powers that be, the results were altered, leading to a PMLN-PPP government being pushed into power corridors in blatant violation of the voters’ rights. The PTI also believes it has been wrongly implicated in the May 9 cases which, it claims, was a staged incident to incapacitate the party.

All the allegations notwithstanding, the question is: why would the PTI reach out to the US and the IMF?

The answer lies in the mindset of the PTI.

The PTI has no faith in the judicial system of the country. The PTI does not trust the political parties in opposition. The PTI does not trust any constitutional institution, be it the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) or the Armed Forces. The PTI is beholden to its mantra of thieves, considering every other party or political personality corrupt. The PTI believes that the corruption swamp Pakistan is mired in can only be cleaned if IK is in power.

The problem with this mentality is that it lacks validation. These are the same institutions that brought the PTI to power in 2018. What has happened in four years that the system has stopped making sense to the party?

Is it because now the system is not favouring the PTI — like it did when it brought the party to power despite all odds in 2018? Like it did when a reference was sent against a Supreme Court judge who is now the Chief Justice of Pakistan during IK’s premiership? Like it did when IK gave unbridled power to NAB to grill the opposition? Like it did when opposition members were implicated in farcical cases to give them a taste of their own medicine? Like it did when IK had blind faith in the powers that be, and his party was assured to rule the country for ten years straight?

In short, a system that responds to IK’s political desires, to his party’s aspirations, a system that overlooks all its follies and still works in its favour, is the system that works for the PTI.

Let’s take a simple example. The PTI was stripped of its election symbol, cricket bat, on the eve of elections. It was labelled as yet another intervention to deny the party a level-playing field. The question is: was the electoral symbol taken away on a spurious charge, or was it based on strong legal reasoning?

Pakistan’s election law confines political parties to hold intra-party elections periodically, whereby the parties are responsible for holding elections at least every five years, and any extension in this time lapse is considered a violation of section 208 of the Elections Act, 2017. The first reminder to hold intra-party elections was sent to the PTI in May 2021 when it was in power at the Centre and some provinces. The party, however, conducted elections in June 2022, but it was rendered null and void by the ECP due to complaints about electoral transparency. It was not the first time that intra-party elections were not held transparently in the PTI. While the party wants everyone else to stand on a high pedestal of morality, it goes to any length to seek compromises on legal and moral issues itself.

The PTI would have been nowhere due to its bad governance had the party’s removal from the Centre not made it yet another political victim.

Even then, the PTI had an opportunity to strengthen parliamentary democracy if it had chosen to show sanity and, instead of leaving assemblies, taken on the role of opposition after the vote of no-confidence. Pakistan’s anomalies cannot be addressed by taking the short route of violence and giving in to disruptions. It requires a prolonged and enduring process of deliberations, discussions and comprehensive reforms that engage all stakeholders.

It is through a comprehensive and collaborative approach, rather than reliance on external forces, that the country can achieve political stability and economic revival.

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