Need for national dialogue

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A number of developments appearing on the political horizon are indicative of the politics of confrontation assuming dangerous dimensions and that too at a time when the country needs national dialogue to address economic malaise especially in the backdrop of situation arising out of Covid-19 and geo-strategic changes taking place in the region. Former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif, who proceeded abroad for medical treatment, has opted to revive his old narrative of ‘Give respect to vote’ (vote ko izzat do) and in the process is also targeting state institutions while Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet colleagues are likening his statements to those of Altaf Hussain, adding that he was playing in the hands of India.
The opposition has joined hands under the umbrella of ‘Pakistan Democratic Alliance’ (PDA) and it is proceeding ahead with the decisions taken at the last All Parties Conference (APC) to mobilize public opinion with plans already announced to launch the anti-government campaign with the holding of first public meetings in Quetta. Though peaceful public meetings and rallies are part and parcel of the democratic activities and fall within the ambit of the law and the Constitution but the opposition has made no secret of its intentions to take the drive to the next stage if the Government did not resign and announce fresh elections. Under these circumstances, there is dire need to establish contact between the Government and the opposition for the sake of smooth functioning of the system so that it delivers as per expectations of the masses. We have been emphasizing in these columns that the Government has embarked upon a number of initiatives and programmes that could change the fate of the common man and the country but it has yet to take practical measures to realize those objectives. It, therefore, requires complete piece of mind to implement its welfare agenda and planned street agitation and long marches could destabilize the elected Government. There is an impression that Nawaz Sharif is erring in pointing accusing fingers towards state institutions and also resorting to lose talk as far as state secrets are concerned. No doubt, he is credited with making Pakistan an established nuclear power and also for his contribution to the missile programme of the country but his references to reverse engineering of cruise missile were not worthy of a three-time Prime Minister. However, despite all this it would be not be appropriate to dub him as an Indian agent as similar allegations in the past embittered the political environment for decades. There is another dimension to the prevailing tension – arrest of PML(N) President Mian Shahbaz Sharif, who is known for politics of reconciliation and taking the institutions along in running affairs of the state. Though, obviously, the arrest is related to the accountability process but the opposition considers all such moves as part of the political victimization as, so far, only opposition leaders are bearing the brunt of the accountability. It was in this context that Central Working Committee of PML(N) has accorded approval to its social mobilisation plan under which protests will be held against the arrest of Shehbaz Sharif by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the situation could take an ugly turn if attempts were made to arrest JUI(F) leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, against whom inquires are underway. The level of political tension and confrontation can be reduced to some extent if leaders of the ruling party shun the tendency of making remarks in advance of all NAB-related arrests. The opposition has a job to oversee working of the Government and criticize its policies but all this should be done within the limits of decency and fair play as the politics of leg-pulling neither paid in the past nor it would yield the intended results now. However, in the process of agitation and protests, the elected government becomes weaker, which is not in the interest of the country. Similarly, as has repeatedly been pointed out by saner voices, it is not job of the Government to behave like the opposition. The Government surely is entitled to defend itself and its policies against unjust remarks and activities but no attempt should be made to raise the political temperature further through acrimonious exchanges.