Don’t forget the past



Mohammad Jamil

ON Friday, a grand opposition alliance in the name and style of “Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Election (PAFFE)” was announced to confront the new incoming coalition government led by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). In the meeting of the Action Committee formed by the leaders of political parties it was decided to lodge protest in front of Election Commission of Pakistan on August 08 against alleged rigging in the July 25 general election. According to a report, the component parties of the PAFFE would direct all their winners, ticket-holders and Senators to participate in the protest demonstration outside the ECP. Besides this, they had also decided to lodge a strong protest inside and outside Parliament during the first sitting of the National Assembly. “We will lodge a protest inside and outside Parliament and it will be a strong protest, but in a civilized manner,” said the spokesman.
The alliance comprises PML-N, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), Awami National Party (ANP) and others. ANP leader Ghulam Ahmed Bilour suggested to hold nationwide protest on August 9, while the member partied decided to protest outside the ECP’s head office on August 8. During the meeting, the united opposition decided to field candidates for the position of prime minister, speaker and deputy speakers from PML-N, PPP and MMA respectively. Candidates for the position Prime Minister, National Assembly Speaker and Deputy Speaker have been selected. It appears from PTI leader’s statements that the party has majority in the National Assembly, KP province and also enough numbers to form government in Punjab. Whereas it is the right of the political parties to stage protest, they should not forget the lessons from the past when the protests led to disastrous results.
In 2014 when PTI staged sit-in in Islamabad, all the political parties stood by the then PML-N government, though PTI claimed that 2018 election was massively rigged. Immediately after the elections, Imran Khan had demanded to open only four constituencies of the national assembly. Now election commission is poised to open as number of constituencies; and those who feel have been wronged should wait as to what comes out of the recounting of the votes in those constituencies. It is not specific to Pakistan that opposition and ruling parties are on a collision course; almost all the countries of South Asia face political and economic crises in one form or another. India has no fewer problems, as increasing ferocity of the Naxal Movement in Central India had become one of the biggest threats to India’s security. In Bangladesh, the politics of strikes and blockades from the two mainstream parties had brought the country to a perilous precipice.
Pakistan’s problem is that when the people were waging struggle for creation of Pakistan under the leadership of the Quaid, it was not possible to build up the cadres to run the country, as the events had unfolded so quickly that partition of the sub-continent came much earlier than expected. It was unfortunate that Pakistan lost its great leaders soon after independence, and had no time to lay down a solid constitutional framework for establishing institutions. The country was thus left at the mercy or bureaucratic leviathan. First, the civil bureaucrat Malik Ghulam Mohammad manoeuvred to become Governor General, dismissed then PM Khawaja Nazimuddin and dissolved the constituent assembly. In 1958, political parties were at loggerheads; one member of the then East Pakistan assembly was seriously injured on the floor of the assembly, which proved fatal.
Since civil bureaucracy was incapable to deal with the chaos and shenanigans of the politicians who had become obstreperous, Defence secretary Iskandar Mirza, who had earlier usurped the office of the President of Pakistan, promulgated Martial Law. However, General Ayub Khan got rid of Iskandar Mirza within a few days by imposing country’s first Martial Law and remained in power for more than a decade. After disintegration of Pakistan in 1971 under another Martial Law administrator Gen Yahya Khan, Peoples Party that bagged more seats in West Pakistan formed the government, which completed its tenure. But after 1977 elections, Bhutto government was overthrown by Gen Zia-ul-Haq who imposed the third Martial Law in July 1977 due to the movement launched by the Pakistan National Alliance. Nawaz government had to face protests from Grand Democratic Alliance, though it was removed for different reasons. During the last 70 years, Pakistan has faced multi-faceted crisis, and once suffered the trauma of disintegration, but no lessons seem to have been learnt.
It is, indeed, democratic right of the opposition to pinpoint or even highlight the wrong policies or flawed decisions of the government, but exercise of this right should not smack of ‘opposition for the sake of opposition’. In democracies, there could be difference of opinion over methodologies of achieving the targets or over the timeframe, but the basic objectives of all the political parties with regard to welfare of the masses and stability and security of the country should remain common. If any neutral observer or analyst is to examine the role played by the political parties in Pakistan, it will not be difficult for him to conclude that the over-all performance has been dismal. In view of what is happening around the world, and Pakistan facing threats to its internal and external security, the ruling party and the opposition parties must sit together to resolve their tiffs through negotiations, as neither will gain from the politics of confrontation.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.

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