IN the backdrop of simmering debate on the issue of holding early elections, the coalition partners have, once again, publicly stated that general election would only be held after electoral reforms and implementation of economic agenda of the Government during the remaining period of the present National Assembly.
Reports from London where PML(N) leadership gathered to review threadbare the prevailing economic and political situation speak of a consensus among party stalwarts to address the economic challenges of the country first and here in Pakistan PPP leader and former President Asif Ali Zardari categorically declared that electoral reforms would precede the general election.
The decision of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to dash to London along with key members of his cabinet not only triggered speculations about possibility of early poll in the face of daunting challenges inherited by the unity Government but also attracted criticism from PTI and some other segments of public opinion as they believed it reflected that the key decisions are made not in Pakistan but in London.
The country is facing formidable economic and political challenges and there is unanimity of views among patriotic Pakistanis that a solution should be found through consultation and dialogue among all stakeholders and players including the Opposition.
There was absolutely no harm if the Prime Minister decided to seek input from the party’s defecto head Mian Nawaz Sharif and also from former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who has a proven track record of managing the economy of Pakistan in a highly professional manner.
The team members went there for consultations on improving governance and were, therefore, entitled for official travel facilities but even then they opted to bear all expenses on travel and lodging themselves, which should be appreciated by all.
Coming back to elections, there seems to be a division within the PML(N) as well, which was highlighted by the remarks made by the party stalwart Marriyum Nawaz during her address to a public meeting at Swabi.
She held the view that PML(N) should not carry the baggage of Imran Khan Government’s failures, adding that the political and economic mess created by former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government requires one to two years.
No doubt, the ruling coalition has political choices and it will have to go for the one that suits its strategy and interests but on the face of it the then opposition parties went for the no-confidence process against Imran Khan on the plea that his policies have damaged all sectors of national economy and compounded the woes of the general public.
Therefore, prudence demands the existing set-up should pick up courage to introduce much-needed economic and electoral reforms as uncertainty is taking a heavy toll on the economy.
Zardari too has supported this logic by declaring that the new coalition government would have to take urgent measures to improve the national economy and save people from financial miseries after bringing the IMF programme back on track.
Electoral reforms are also overdue and it would not be appropriate to go for general election without introducing consensus reforms to ensure transparency and fairness of the entire electoral exercise.
In the past, almost all elections were labelled as ‘rigged’, depriving the winning party the legitimacy to rule the country with required peace of mind.
The reforms would hopefully also resolve the controversy surrounding the decision of the previous government to grant the right of vote to overseas Pakistanis.
PPP has a saner proposition that seats could be reserved for proper representation of overseas Pakistanis in Parliament like seats were reserved in the assemblies for religious minorities and women.
Apart from all this, there are also indications that immediate elections might not produce any clear winner and the future government will not have the strength to take bold and independent policy decisions.
According to a statement issued by Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Marriyum Aurangzeb, the London huddle also discussed various options to deal with continued ‘transgressions of Constitution’ by some public office holders.
She said the PML-N leadership was unanimous in dealing with the violators of the Constitution in accordance with the law.
Surely, this issue needs to be resolved as a first priority as any agenda of economic and electoral reforms is unlikely to be implemented in a smooth and instant manner in the given circumstances.