Ominous signs

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IT was an open secret that an unspecified number of Members of National Assembly (MNAs) belonging to ruling PTI have, for all practical purposes, parted ways with treasury benches but PTI government received a big jolt when those in the ‘safe custody’ at the Capital’s Sindh House publicly stated that they would support the no-confidence motion submitted by the joint opposition against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In a flurry of hard-hitting statements, news conferences and media interviews, members of Federal Cabinet termed Sindh House as nerve of the horse-trading where sale and purchase of loyalties was taking place yet those enjoying hospitality of the opposition firmly stated that they were acting according to their conscience, adding that it was difficult for them to go along with the PTI as the party took no interest to address their grievances during last three and a half years.

PTI MNAs Malik Nawab Sher Waseer and Raja Riaz said that around 24 PTI members were there in Sindh House and that many others are ready to come there but PML-N is unable to accommodate all the members (in the award of ticket for next general elections).

All indications point out that things are speedily moving towards a point of no return as both sides are vowing to use all options irrespective of their outcome for the country or fragile democratic process.

The anger of ruling party was understandable as Thursday’s developments conveyed a clear impression that government has lost its majority in the National Assembly even before a vote on the no-confidence motion.

And their frustration was manifest in the piece of advice that Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad gave to the Prime Minister in retaliation to what was happening at Sindh House.

After a meeting with the Prime Minister, Sheikh told newsmen that he has advised him to impose Governor’s rule in Sindh, obviously to deny security and shelter that provincial government has provided to disgruntled members of PTI.

However, there is universal consensus among saner segments of the society that it was an ill-conceived and ill-intentioned advice as it is pregnant with serious dangers not only for government itself but also the country.

The PPP leaders have categorically stated that they would react strongly to imposition of Governor’s rule in the province, as there was absolutely no justification for such a move.

Legal and constitutional experts also argue that sufficient grounds do not exist to go for such an irrational step that could take political temperatures to alarming levels.

Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) Secretary Omar Soomro has also warned that all provincial bars would strongly resist federal government’s move regarding imposition of governor’s rule in Sindh.

In fact, there are reasons to believe that some of the prominent figures in government, rather than going for fire-fighting for embattled Prime Minister, are adding fuel to the fire and complicating the situation for government further.

While Sheikh Rasheed floated the idea of bringing supporters of PTI in the D-Chowk on day of voting on no-confidence motion and is now asking for imposition of Governor’s rule in Sindh, some others are talking in terms of storming the Sindh House and use abusive language against the opposition leaders as well as PTI’s disgruntled elements and allies, pushing them further away from government.

Reports are also circulating that government has directed civilian intelligence agencies and police to monitor phone calls and physical movements of not just members of PTI but also those of the coalition partners.

There is no doubt that purchase of loyalties has become a curse of Pakistani politics and it needs to be curbed.

However, track record of the government on this account is not enviable as people witnessed what happened during election of Chairman of the Senate where the opposition was defeated despite having a comfortable majority in the house.

PTI embraced scores of so-called electables (who were members of other parties) to its fold to strengthen its position and above all PML (N) was denied the right to form government in Punjab despite the fact that it was the largest party in the house.

The government itself fed the media with reports that some MPAs belonging to PML (N) met both Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Three federal ministers, who addressed a news conference to comment on latest developments on Thursday, also openly stated that they too were in contact with opposition members.

Then where are the principles?In such a provocative environment, the opposition leaders have now given renewed calls to their workers for a long march on Islamabad on March 23.

The ruling party too is still adamant to organise a ‘big’ show at the famous D-Chowk without realising that it was fundamental responsibility of the government to maintain law & order while convergence of charged crowds at and around D-Chowk could trigger violence.

In the given ominous situation, there seem to be very limited options for the government and the challenge could become more serious if its allies also distance themselves away from the government.

There is, however, still possibility of a dialogue to resolve the political crisis peacefully in larger interests of the country.

It is unfortunate that no serious effort was made during last few years for national reconciliation and as a result the country is suffering hugely due to political instability.

The relevance of political stability to economic development was once again highlighted by Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on CPEC Khalid Mansoor who said on Thursday that if political stability remains intact, the Chinese commitment of $20 to $30 billion investment for establishing a petrochemical complex and relocation of refineries at Gwadar could be materialised.

There are active plans to make Pakistan a manufacturing hub under second phase of the CPEC but investors would not take risks if we are unable to ensure stability.

It is time all stakeholders allow the system to function smoothly and all should accept the mandate given by people of Pakistan in election.

There should also be an end to political victimisation of the opposition and opposition too must wait patiently, shun leg-pulling approach and instead contribute towards realisation of cherished objective of good governance.

 

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