A clarion call for sanity | By Zaheer Bhatti


A clarion call for sanity

PAKISTAN, due to the immaturity of some of its national institutions, is going through its worst economic crisis and political instability.

The onus among them for creating a congenial atmosphere rests with its political leadership as a whole, because it has kept cautioning various national institutions against interference into each other’s domain, but itself blatantly taken recourse to the Judiciary and the Press instead of strengthening Parliament, and thus been guilty of tarnishing its own image as the supreme institution to be able to deal with internal and external challenges.

A Parliamentary Democracy can truly function only when the Treasury Benches deliver to the people without discriminating between Party and non-party ranks and entities aimed at winning over maximum support out of the Opposition by constantly engaging them on domestic and external issues, and for the Opposition to act as a shadow Government, pinning down the Government over its failings but standing fast together with it on critical and sensitive national issues to the outside world and generating a strong message of national unity in diversity for Peace, Justice and Development.

Unfortunately, rather than strengthening and complimenting national institutions for the collective good of its people, both the Treasury and Opposition Benches have been at each other’s throat unmindful of geo-political and economic challenges facing the country.

Valuable time has been squandered by both sides on non-issues; the Treasury traditionally blaming the past Rulers for mis-governance and corruption, but being unable to net a single big fish itself with all the resources at its command, or set in motion any concrete development plan showing promise, and the Opposition from day-one yelling foul play and stealing of the general election with the help and nod of the proverbial Establishment, which it spared no moment to castigate.

People initially took the mandate emerging out of the 2018 general election as a breath of fresh air; breaking the status quo of the two principal parties taking turns and delivering little, and compromising national sovereignty for petty considerations in the process.

The Establishment also did not respond promptly to kill the Opposition narrative of a selective mandate, if it was baseless; giving credence to the viral impression.

The Treasury Benches did not do any better in remaining at loggerheads with the Opposition treating it like dirt; refusing to engage them on important national issues.

Resultantly, polarization has come to such a pass that the Government despite some creditable moves at home and abroad finds its efforts obscured, and the Opposition demonstrating pangs of resistance; ill-orchestrated for the most part but eventually coming up with a ‘No Trust Motion’ which it ought to have tabled with reasonable time left for an in-house or a radical change of Government which could attempt addressing some of the people’s woes.

But with barely few months left in the last year of parliamentary tenure; allowing time for an interim Caretaker Government to conduct the polls, one fails to fathom what the Opposition stands to achieve even if the it succeeds in ousting Imran Khan, except providing him with an excuse to play the martyr.

All one anticipates in such an eventuality is total chaos and instability, allowing Pakistan’s adversaries to exploit, which the nation can ill-afford.

But who cares. Far from winning over support from a fragmented opposition with a team performance, Imran Khan obsessed with his freak cricketing success and quoting it ad nauseam drawing parallel with running a Government, has seriously impaired the progress he could have made by being open-minded and accommodating instead of remaining unbending and stubborn.

No one asked him for any concessions for those he considers corrupt, but a mere chant of corruption and failing to book and have them punished despite all the resources at his command, is the dark part of his narrative, besides the fact that he and his mates are often seen expressing helplessness at the hands of various mafias they have been unable to break.

A dispassionate analysis of the current situation nevertheless, points to some inherent flaws and loopholes deliberately or inadvertently left in the rules of the game spelt out in the Constitution of the country.

Even though Floor-crossing in this part of the world is considered a curse, and several steps have been taken to address the Issue including the 18th Amendment empowering the provinces and insertion of Clause 63-A in the Constitution making it difficult to switch loyalties, the Government which clearly looks on the defensive on the ‘No Trust’ move with its coalition partners keeping their options open and desertions among its own ranks; mostly those traditional turncoats it had accommodated as ‘electables’ coming out in the open, has had to resort to delaying tactics and made a Reference to the Apex Court for interpretation of the said Article through the President of Pakistan.

Sadly as always, the larger Bench created for the purpose, instead of being unanimous and expeditious over its interpretation is making divergent comments and extending the hearing.

The indication by the Bench that the Parliamentarians can cast their vote as they like which will also be counted, is contradictory to the assertion of the Chief Justice cautioning the parliamentarians to honour their commitment to respective parties even if you are unhappy with its decisions and conduct since you have been elected on the strength of the Party manifesto or because of its leadership.

Action against them according to the spirit of the provisions under the Constitution ought to be taken to deter horse trading and floor crossing rather than after an incumbent has committed the infringement.

Going through the motions of de-seating a parliamentarian after he has already inflicted the damage of becoming an instrument in causing demise of a Government, which is not a small matter.

In hindsight, perhaps this license can be allowed to those parliamentarians who join a Party after being elected in their individual capacity as Independent, and may retain the right to switch loyalty if they do not find the going good.

But those returned on the Party ticket must resign their seat and seek re-election as an Independent in order to be entitled to vote according to their free conscience.

—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.


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