IN a television interview, Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan offered some important but conditional proposals that have the potential to make a difference in the friction-ridden political scene of the country provided necessary flexibility is demonstrated by all sides.
He expressed readiness to hold dialogue with the coalition government but only on the issue of holding next general election, indirectly proposed an extension in the tenure of the incumbent Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, indicated his willingness to offer apology before the court over his threatening remarks against a lady judge of Islamabad and claimed he was not anti-American to justify his recent meetings with the US officials in the backdrop of his party’s full-fledged rhetoric against the United States.
Preference of some leaders for politics of confrontation notwithstanding dialogue is the only option for solution of political and economic challenges facing the country and that is why there have been appeals and suggestions from different circles for a national dialogue.
In this backdrop, the willingness of the PTI chief to hold talks with the government is encouraging but it loses substance and relevance due to the condition that dialogue can only be held on holding of next elections.
The impatience displayed by PTI for a general election and appointment of next COAS is understandable as it wanted to gain from the intensified popularity wave of the party and apparently wants to appoint an Army Chief of its own liking but there are other stakeholders and players as well and, therefore, dialogue cannot be held on unilateral conditions but on the principle of give and take.
Immediate elections are a remote possibility in the given situation and these cannot be held even two months later as is being proposed by Imran Khan.
This is because the situation created by floods is unlikely to normalize in two months and electioneering would not only be difficult but could also distract attention of the government and relevant institutions away from the much more important task of rebuilding and rehabilitation.
There are apprehensions that in some areas the standing water could take close to six months to dry up in the absence of a large-scale mechanism to flush it out.
Apart from the flood situation, the parties forming the coalition government also have their own point of view over timing of the general election.
The government believes and rightly so that its popularity has dipped immensely due to the harsh measures it has taken to stabilize the economy and wants to do something tangible to provide relief to the people before elections are announced.
We have repeatedly been emphasizing in these columns that PTI should return back to the National Assembly to play its role in legislative business and that talks should be held on the crucial issue of electoral reforms as elections without reforms would endanger credibility and legitimacy of the entire exercise.
As for extension of the incumbent Army Chief or appointment of a new one is concerned this should not be made topic of political discourse and the issue should be sorted out through laid down procedure.
It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister to take a decision and the matter should not be scandalised on the pretext of merit.
The derogatory language that a ‘fugitive’ is not entitled to appoint the next Army Chief is not helpful in creating a congenial atmosphere for any dialogue or meaningful engagement between the government and the opposition.
In a related development, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has claimed that the PTI chief was trying to open the “doors of negotiation” with the establishment in his “desperation for power”.
In fact, there is a need to discard the tendency of criticizing national institutions and making them controversial through uncalled-for comments and remarks.
It is good that Imran Khan is thinking in terms of offering unconditional apology to the court in the contempt case but it would be more appropriate if such remarks are not uttered in any case.
There is nothing unusual if Imran Khan holds meetings with foreign diplomats but the issue assumes prominence in the backdrop of ‘anti-America’ posture displayed by PTI publically for political reasons and the erstwhile stand of IK that the opposition leaders have no business to meet foreign diplomats.
Leaders ought to do principled-based politics for their own sake and that of the country as well.