Level playing field! A far cry

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Zaheer Bhatti

THE impoverished nation of Pakistan otherwise bestowed with all the bounties of nature, which has been rendered dysfunctional due to its short sighted and self-seeking leadership with extravagant lifestyle and amassed riches, is yet again mounting an expensive exercise in futility in the name of the prevailing sham democracy. One says this because how can you expect leaders who do not emerge from the masses to know their trials, tribulations, dreams and aspirations, to truly represent them; and this is true of all political parties capitulating to leadership cult or dynasty rule, with the exception of Jamaat-e-Islami which conducts regular and transparent party polls; unfortunately though, it has lacked the mass appeal in an increasingly materialistic world drifting away from the fundamental belief system. Looking at the developments so far and the electioneering rhetoric and manifestos without a concrete plan for delivery, there is no evidence of fruition, as has been witnessed through country’s nearly 71-year journey so far.
Rules of the Election Commission of Pakistan and their application like most laws in the Country fail to find effective enforcement; the major flaws continuing to be its inability to enforce and cap electioneering expenditure limits for candidates besides being unable to gauge truthfulness, honesty and livelihood within means of contestants, over which despite a cut-off date which is passed with barely ten days to the polling exercise, objections are still being entertained, placing the contestants in a limbo. Unfortunately, even this time around, events unfolding have raised serious questions over the level playing field required for any recourse to the national ballot to determine genuine leadership of the country for another term.
Despite a stern warning by PEMRA, unabated slander, character assassination and foul-mouthing both by the politicians against each other in public gatherings and through paid advertisements through various TV Channels, and the partisan media opinionating and taking sides, have marred developments like never before. Among a score of other deficiencies, it is ridiculous to impose Section 144 in any place or town prohibiting gathering of four or more, when contestants and supporters require freedom to gather and canvass with the General election barely days away. I am no fan nor advocate of the recently convicted three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose imprudent dig and tirade along with his unchartered daughter against the Military Establishment notwithstanding, the Court verdicts for his disqualification and stripping of office, as also his current convictions have left such huge gaps and legal lacuna that if the PML(N) leader was to abandon his obsession against the country’s Army, made peace with his Party stalwarts like Ch Nisar Ali Khan, the likes of Zaeem Qadri and others at a time when he needs unity in his genuine ranks, and galvanized his loyalists to put up a determined legal and political fight he has a great chance of turning it around for his Party.
Contrary to Imran Khan and his team-mates corruption chant against the Sharifs which despite all guns firing, ten fat volumes of JIT material and two years of Apex Court and NAB endeavor could find no evidence of corruption, the three-time Prime Minister was not only removed from the Office of the Prime Minister but also stripped off the Chairmanship of his political party on the charge of being a prospective recipient of salary in his son’s Company which he may never have intended to receive. This was a stretched application of Article 62 of the Constitution over what could have only been an honest omission, at best warrantying a reprimand. To cap it, after 10 months of rigours by the Ehtesab Court following Sharif’s corruption case reference to them despite unwarrantedly declaring it an open and shut case, the Ehtesab Court while categorically declaring that the prosecution was unable to prove any corruption against the Sharifs, have booked them for assets beyond means without proof of ownership of Avenfield Apartments by the accused.
With no less a person than the former Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice (R) Iftikhar Choudhry who has been an avowed critic of Nawaz Sharif, besides eminent legal experts condemning the latest Ehtesab Court conviction against the Sharifs, as frail and contradictory on legal and technical grounds, there is no reason that the judgment should not be reversed the moment it is contested by the Sharifs; a stay in enforcement being the minimum immediate relief if and when applied for. Nawaz Sharif contrary to doubts created against his return by PTI which has concurrently been decrying his expected reception by PML(N) workers, much against their wishes headed home leaving his ailing wife still on ventilator in a London Hospital to face the inevitable, while the law enforcing agencies and NAB officials prepared to take them into custody which they did without the hassle of confronting the converging crowd, and flew him out to Islamabad’s Adiala destination along with his daughter.
But rather than allowing Party ranks to gather and harmlessly express solidarity with their leadership, which in view of the questionable Court verdicts against him seemed reassured afresh to rally support, the interim Government needlessly pressed the panic button, blocking roads and motorway interchanges and arresting several PML(N) workers and detaining several noted leaders for 30 days at the mere apprehension of inflammatory speeches by them, in contrast to the PTI Chief and a poker-faced more loyal than the king Fawad Choudhry freely foul-mouthing against opponents. This decried the Interim Govt.’s contention of being a neutral tender and only ended up giving more currency to the Nawaz Camp. But amid this air of political polarization, the sad development of terror targeting of political rallies in KP and Balochistan for the second day running and martyrdom of dozens of workers and two candidates one in each Province, is a cause for concern and evidences lack of adequate security measures to pre-empt such attacks by enemy forces during the countrywide polling exercise which has only just begun.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.

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