Walking away from brinkmanship

Published: November 19, 2014
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The writer is an Islamabad-based senior journalist and former director general of the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation. He tweets @murtazasolangi

The writer is an Islamabad-based senior journalist and former director general of the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation. He tweets @murtazasolangi

Pakistan is bracing for another bout of uncertainty as November comes to an end, with the brinkmanship that started with Independence Day still not having concluded. The Tahirul Qadri-led PAT and the PTI of Imran Khan rushed to the capital in mid-August and promised to lay siege with millions of protesters and create massive problems for the leadership, with the sole dream of overthrowing the regime. Neither happened.

The rebels could not gather the millions they had called and despite the disturbance caused in parliament, federal buildings and state television offices, the Nawaz government didn’t blink. On the contrary, parliament stood behind the civilian government and the military did not move to overthrow the regime.

The dharna by the PAT and the ‘containerisation’ of the twin cities did create some issues, but it did not shake the government. Finally, the PAT packed up its tents and walked away with the pledge to contest elections when they take place, while Imran Khan moved to other cities to hold rallies with the sole aim of keeping his party together and spreading the notion of its victimhood. The relations between two cousins have become strained in the meanwhile.

Imran sent en bloc resignations of his members in the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies of Sindh and Punjab to deepen the crisis but has now started on-again, off-again negotiations with the government.

Now Mr Khan is packing new steam to strike at the national capital by the end of the month while giving signals that he is willing to talk to the government through his team to break the impasse. The Nawaz government doesn’t look eager to start the negotiations while an anti-terrorism court has issued warrants of arrest for both Mr Khan and Mr Qadri. With all these power games and the brinkmanship, the main issues of governance and institutional reform are on hold.

The PTI knows that it has failed in its objective to push the government out through playing the game that was in vogue in the 1990s. It needs to retract itself from the minefield it has thrown itself in. The issue of holding fair elections will be addressed through electoral reforms in collaboration with and not in opposition to other parties. For that to happen, the PTI needs to be back in parliament and not outside it. It needs to work with other parties in order to create electoral laws, mechanisms and machinery to make that happen. All parties need to go back to the drawing board to deliver to the people in terms of their legislative and governance performance.

The Nawaz government must not take the recent Supreme Court decision on appointments to public enterprises as a carte blanche to pack national institutions with cronies. It should realise that it is the government and cannot act like an opposition. It must engage with the PTI and bring it back to parliament. Keeping Imran Khan outside parliament will be more harmful for the system than keeping him within parliament. The PML-N should also stop making incinerating accusations, like claiming that the PTI is working with terrorist groups. People will not believe such claims. If the government has any evidence, it should proscribe the party, instead of making silly accusations. The PPP, the PML-N and the PTI are ruling parties and the people expect all of them to work diligently to make Pakistan work rather than planning marathons of brinkmanship.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 19th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (3)

  • Gramscian
    Nov 19, 2014 - 2:38AM

    Given PML-N’s past record, the last paragraph looks like a long wish list. If after all this turmoil the government has not taken any concrete steps to address the challenge of electoral reforms, I really doubt it ever will. And PTI cannot achieve much in the parliament with 35 seats. N will just play it around for another 3 years.

    Mark my word.

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  • salman
    Nov 19, 2014 - 6:14AM

    Fair enough…you propose some practical steps for way forward. But what about investigating rigging and model town cases. How do we move forward on those? Surely we can’t just sweep that under the carpet?

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  • Mirza
    Nov 20, 2014 - 12:34AM

    “The PPP, the PML-N and the PTI are ruling parties and the people expect all of them to work diligently to make Pakistan work rather than planning marathons of brinkmanship.”
    A balanced and sensible Op Ed by ET. The problem is some are playing kite flying. If I do not grab the stray kite then I would tear it and not let others have it. They forget it is not a game it is the country and stop playing with its fate.
    There is only one party in the country which does not like any national institution including Senate. Current Senate has nothing to do with 2013 elections and was elected prior to that. Yet IK shows total disdain toward all elected leaders including his own party. That is why he is controlling their resignations on whole sale level. People have elected these leaders to represent them and solve their local problems not fight for PM ship. When IK can work with the eternal establishment people like Rashid, Choudhry, SMQ and all lotas then why he cannot work with the elected Senate? IK has to learn to work with all elected leaders of all the parties if he believes in democracy.

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