Descent into chaos and anarchy | By Tariq Aqil


Descent into chaos and anarchy

PAKISTAN once again is in the eye of the storm. This storm is a giant tornado created by the political elite and the all-powerful establishment. This country has faced many trials and tribulations in its checkered political history of the last seventy five years, but this time it appears as if the nation is on the edge of the precipice and about to descend into chaos and anarchy. Democratic process and our democratic institutions appear to be dead or dormant and the political crisis seems to be getting worse with each passing day and the uncertain future is definitely bleak and scary. All political pundits are at a loss to predict anything with any amount of certainty. The very recent unilateral surprising announcement by the President for the elections to the Punjab and KP provincial assemblies has thrown the proverbial spanner in deadly power game being played out in the country.

The legality and constitutional validity of the announcement by President Arif Alvi has been questioned by the Election Commission of Pakistan which has the ultimate constitutional responsibility for holding polls to the National and provincial assemblies of the federation, and this action of the President has brought the ECP and the presidency in direct confrontation. Before this announcement the Election Commission had already refused the invitation by the president for consultation on the dates of the elections on the grounds that the matter was under review by a court of law. On February 10 the Lahore high court had ruled that elections to the two provincial assemblies must be held within the time laid down in the constitution but the PDM government in defiance of the court order has not shown any willingness to comply with the court orders, meaning another round of legal battle.

The Federal Government as well as the Election Commission are shirking their responsibility for holding elections to the provincial assemblies. The air is thick with rumours and conspiracy theories and the great game being played looks like an attempt to derail the democratic process and avoid a political change by legal and constitutional method. Pakistan’s history has no previous example of the violation of the Constitution which has clearly stipulated that elections must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of any assembly. It has now been more than 30 days since the provincial assemblies of Punjab and KP were dissolved and still there is no sign that the government or the ECP are in any mood to fulfil their legal and constitutional responsibilities.

It is a matter of concern that a coalition government of 13 democratic parties with a manifesto of democratic credentials and a history of struggle for democracy is now seen running away from the inevitable fresh elections. This process is urgently required as per provisions of the Constitution and the ruling parties are also required to seek a fresh mandate from the voters in order to govern the country. Taking shelter behind the fig leaf and making lame excuses like the poor economic situation or the rise of terrorism leading to a law and order situation raises question marks about the legitimacy of the government. The present National Assembly is truncated and moth eaten and cannot prove its credentials as representing the entire nation. The ruling of the Lahore high Court has already suspended the de-notification of the PTI MNAs and this has further weakened the position of the PDM coalition government.

There is a big question mark on the irrational and illogical decision of the PTI to resign en masse from the National Assembly after the success of the no-confidence motion against them in April last year. The Speaker of the Assembly suddenly accepted their resignations after delaying his decision for many months. These resignations were accepted after the PTI made a big U-turn to with draw the resignations and go back to the Assembly. The PTI’s decision to quit the Assembly was certainly illogical and irrational but at the same time the attitude of the Speaker is a clear sign of the insecurity being exhibited by the government. The speaker has still not allowed the MNAs to take their seats even when the Lahore High Court has suspended the de-notification. The entire drama is a mockery of the principles of democracy and it shows that all the political parties in Parliament today are in no mood to practice politics within the parameters laid down in the Constitution.

The shameful power game going on in the country is now leading to the clash of national institutions which will result in the total collapse of the system. The State is breaking down and yet there is no sign of an end to the political standoff between the various pillars of the State. Punjab the most powerful province is on the edge of civil strife and tension is rising with the launch of the Jail Bharo Movement by Imran Khan. The present political crisis has shaken the very roots of the country and we are inching closer and closer to anarchy and giving space to the extra-constitutional powers to take action.