Few would disagree with Imran Khan’s democratic right to launch Azadi Marches and stage sit-ins in protest against what he believes to be an illegitimate government — a government, he is convinced, that came into being by stealing the PTI’s mandate. But many do wonder how the Khan is likely to achieve his objective of sending an elected government home, if it is not willing to go, by strictly adhering to the Constitution.
In the May 2013 elections, Imran had polled the second-largest number of votes after the PML-N. His party leads the coalition government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). The PTI holds the leadership of provincial opposition in the Punjab Assembly. So more than any other political party, Imran’s PTI has formidable stakes in the current democratic dispensation and the system.
He himself has made it clear a number of times in the past that he would oppose tooth and nail any attempt by unconstitutional forces to disrupt the democratic process.
Of course, there is this possibility of a rebellion within the ruling parties resulting in votes of no confidence against the prime minister and the chief ministers of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. But this, too, appears to be a possibility dotted with many ifs and buts.
Many among our pundits believe that General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s trial is the real cause of the present government’s predicament. Many others believe that the prime minister’s attempts to call the shots on foreign policy issues, such as relations with the US, India and Afghanistan, also have not gone down well with you-know-who, and therefore, the current crisis. One cannot rule out these possibilities, but what Imran is demanding has got nothing to do with these matters, therefore, all speculations making such connections should stop.
Let me digress here a little. Pakistan has had the sad experience of meeting such accidents every time it had entered a transition phase. The first accident occurred in October 1958 when we were transiting from a colonial entity to an independent state. The excuse was Khan Abdul Qayum Khan’s threat to lead a long march against Karachi, the then capital of the country. The second one occurred when forced by country-wide agitations, the then dictator, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, decided to transfer power to civilian authorities. The third accident occurred while transiting from a war-torn country to a dismembered one. The 1990s saw four accidents in quick succession as the country tried to transit to a permanent democratic set-up after the accidental death of the then military dictator, General Ziaul Haq.
We are once again in transition mode. It had been touch and go during the PPP-led government after the 2008 elections. But we survived, and for the first time in our history, we saw one civilian government handing over power to the next elected one.
For the last 67 years, the army or the so-called establishment has been calling the shots with regard to foreign, defence and economic policies. Now, during a transition, one expects a willing or even perhaps, a reluctant establishment to hand over all decision-making processes in relations to all these subjects to a more than willing, but largely lacking-in-capacity civilian authorities. This handing over and taking over process does not happen overnight. You simply cannot switch off and switch on. It takes time for even the willing to give up powers that they had been wielding for so many years. And similarly, the civilian authorities take their own time learning the ropes to start taking the right kind of decisions. This is the most difficult phase of a transition. And we are right in the middle of it. Those who stand to gain by a tussle between the one handing over and the other taking over the powers on matters of how, why and when, would be doing their worst if they sharpen these tussles and create all kinds of misunderstandings between the two. And they would even try to discover non-existent points of discord and play up assumed disagreements between the establishment and the civilian government.
While putting across his demands, Imran should be dictated by the Constitution, and Nawaz Sharif, while responding to these demands, should avoid using undemocratic and unconstitutional means. Otherwise, both would be holding the empty sack at the drop scene.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2014.
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