Deconstructing politics of lockdown

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Ahsan Iqbal

The rise of PTI wasregarded a positive change in the political landscape of Pakistan. PTI attracted a section of urban middle classes which didn’t find representation in the older parties. Moreover, Mr. Imran Khan being a sportsman was expected to be a positive role model for the youth following him. Butunfortunately Mr. Khan has opted for politics of intolerance anddestruction instead of engaging in the politics of decency and development. In the process, he has radicalized PTI youthwith his ultra-aggressive and condescending rhetoric. Consequently, urban middle classes now feel betrayed by his politics.
The proposed ‘lockdown’ of Islamabad on November 2ndby PTI chairman must be framed in a broader context to fully understand what it entails. In this piece I will present three propositionsbased on facts. First,Mr. Khan’s politics is tantamount to quasi-fascism. Second, the lockdown of Islamabad is not about accountability, it is about economic sabotage of Pakistan. Third,PTI chief has no respect for democratic process and institutions of the country and he is willing to derail democracy for his personal gains.
George Orwell noted in his article titled, ‘What is Fascism’?“Any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’”. Mr. Khan’s politics is based on bullying tactics, he threatens and insults democratic and civilian institutions of the country. Mr. Khan questions moral credibility and integrity of whoever expresses his/her difference of opinion with him. It shows that PTI chief has no respect for difference of opinion, attribute of a quasi-fascist.
Mr. Khan claims that the aim of the lockdown is to initiate theinvestigation of Panama papers. So where does the investigation on Panama papers stand at the moment? Multiple filed petitions of PTI and other opposition parties on Panama papers are already in the Supreme Court. Moreover, Prime Minister Sharif has announced that he and his family would be happy to bring facts to the court and let law takes its natural course. So it is obvious that the real objective of PTI lies somewhere else. In reality November 2nd lockdown is a manifestation of Mr. Khan’sdesign to bully the national institutions to get verdict in his favor.
Mr. Khan made a political career on a slogan of ‘accountability’ of his political opponents. But when it comes to accountability of his own government in KP and party, he becomes indifferent. KP Ehtesab Commission’s chief resigned in protest on the grounds that he was not allowed to function properly. Similarly, Justice (r)Wajih-ud-Din noted that intra-party elections were rigged by party’s stalwarts and identified corrupt elements in the party. PTI chief disgracefully purged Justice (r) Wajihfrom the party while those who were declared corrupt by Justice (r) Wajihstand right next to PTI chief. Similarly, several PTI MNAs and MPAs levelled serious corruption charges against Chief Minister of KP. Instead of investigating the charges they were snubbed by Mr. Khan. How can we explain this?
It is very simple. Mr. Khan has a single agenda: capture power via hook or crook. I will give you another example to further substantiate this point. Imran Khan accused Ministers of QWP in KP of corruption.But later on KP governmentinducted them back in the cabinet for political expediency. This episode shows two main attributes of Mr. Khan’s politics. One, for political purposes, Mr. Khan can malign anyone.Second, he would embrace what he calls corruption for his political gains.
Adding to his frustration, PTI’s performance has been poor. KP government has allocated Rs.161 billion for its 2016-17 Annual Development Programme, which is 8 % smaller than the outgoing year’s allocation. Moreover, in last three years, not a single worthwhile development projecthas been put on ground in KP.
Economic development requires political stability and continuity of policies. The objective of lockdown politics is to undermine both of them. Therefore, it is tantamount to economic sabotage of Pakistan. PTI chief is cognizant of the fact that if PM Sharif’s government finishes its constitutional term, it will add 11,000 megawatts of energy in the national grid by 2018. It is worth mentioning that from 1947 to 2013 the total production of energy was only 16,000 megawatts. Security situation has remarkably improved in last three years. Under CPEC $51 billion investment is coming to Pakistan. I would remind those with short memories that in 2013, Pakistan was seen as the most dangerous country in the world. But today Pakistan is being referred as an emerging economy. Today, the economic growth rate is highest in last 8 years and inflation is at its lowest. The summer of 2016 witnessed highest numbers of domestic tourists in Pakistan. This reflects that people are expressing confidence on the economy. Thus, it seems improbable for Mr. Khan to win 2018 election.
Cynics of PML-N government equate existing political system with monarchy (badshahat). These cynics are either totally ignorant or completely dishonest. Because under ‘badshahat’ people are not fortunate enough to criticize the regime. In Pakistan political parties and media ruthlessly criticize government 24/7. In almost every by-election, local bodies’ elections, G-B and AJK legislative assemblies’ elections, people of this country showed trust and confidence in the policies of PM Sharif’s government and rejected quasi-fascist politics of Mr. Khan.
Larry Diamond noted that democracy is simultaneously an inspirational concept and a descriptive term. There is always a room for a nation to become more democratic, including the highly advanced democracies and Pakistan is no exception. According to Diamond, there are three main attributes that a regime must possess to be classified as a democratic regime: i) universal adult franchise and citizen’s right to hold public office; ii) existence of political opposition and iii) protection of civil liberties. Since 2008 Pakistan has made huge gains in all three dimensions and PML-N government is committed to further improve the democratic process.
The people of Pakistan gave mandate to PML-N governmentvia ballot and in last one year it has won almost every election in the country, viz., AJK, GB & by-elections. It is constitutional duty of PML-N government to implement its manifesto. And only through ballot people reserve the right to elect a new government. Mr. Khan colluded with non-democratic forcesin 2014 dharna to attack the Parliament and Pakistan Television (PTV). And he is planning to do even worst this timeafter being rejected by people in electoral politics. This shows that he has no regard for democratic process
PML-N recognizes the role of a robust political opposition in a democracy. We encourage objective and evidence based criticism on our politics and conduct. Moreover, constitution guarantees right to protest to political parties without obstructing the rights of their fellow citizens. PTI chief has openly declared that he would obstruct the movement of people in Islamabad and he is going to decide who would be allowed to move around the city. This is completely unacceptable in a democracy and it is a duty of the government in office to use administrative means to stop mayhem in Islamabad. Threatening to force closure of capital city and government offices is not protected under constitution neither it is a democratic exercise. In fact, it is tantamount to spreading anarchy.Therefore, I hope PTI would rethink its current strategy and will come in terms with parliamentary style of politics.
I invite PTI lawmakers to come work with the government on electoral reforms agenda, which Mr. Khan has forgotten. PML-N government is committed to consult all opposition parties to improve on the existing electoral process so that 2018 elections are free of any irregularities.

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