Polls, no polls

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AS was widely expected, PTI Chairman Imran Khan has stepped up pressure for his consistent demand of early elections after securing a resounding victory in the just-concluded by-elections for some constituencies of the National Assembly and the Punjab Assembly.

Addressing a news conference in Islamabad on Monday, he apparently gave a last chance to the powers-that-be to announce general elections or he would give final call for his much-trumpeted long march on the Federal Capital.

He dwelt at length on the issue of immediate elections, claiming that the PML(N) supremo Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was scared of the huge popularity of the PTI and wanted to delay the elections in the hope of countering PTI with the passage of time.

Imran Khan has categorically declared that the long march would not go beyond October, which effectively means there could be extraordinary developments during the next two weeks.

Announcement of an early date for holding of general election would obviate the need and justification for the long march and a deadlock could spell havoc as the state has repeatedly made it clear that it would not allow anyone to disrupt peace and security and the writ of the state would be ensured at any cost.

It seems Imran Khan too is aware of the sensitivity of the issue and the dangers involved and that is why he is not showing haste in announcing a date for the long march as he did on previous occasions.

IK also publicly claimed that his party was in secret contacts with the Establishment and, therefore, no one knows for sure what could ultimately transpire on the political horizon but as far as the ruling coalition is concerned, it has stuck to its previous position on the issue of fresh elections.

The leaders of the coalition parties had a brainstorming session on the latest political situation in the backdrop of electoral victory of the PTI and in a written statement categorically rejected Imran’s demand for early polls saying the decision rested with its allies and no group will be allowed to impose its will through the use of force.

In a reference to the threat of a long march, they said those who take the law into their own hands will be dealt with according to the Constitution and the law.

The coalition Government has, once again, made its position known on some other issues including the appointment of a new Army Chief.

Contrary to the demand of the PTI and the proposition of President Arif Alvi that the opposition should be consulted on the issue, the coalition leaders firmly stated that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will decide on the appointment of the new army chief according to the law and it will not be done because of pressure of a ‘foreign-funded anarchist’ and threats and dictation.

In their joint statement, the leaders said hooliganism and pressure tactics would not be allowed to hold the Constitution, democracy and system hostage, adding the country’s economy and rehabilitation of flood victims at this time was a national priority and there will be no compromise on it.

The woes of the Government are understandable as its popularity plummeted due to bitter economic decisions as highlighted by the outcome of the latest by-elections.

Barring some exceptional development, the country is set to witness another period of upheavals in coming days as Imran Khan is not ready to accept anything less than an early date for elections and the Government believes time is not ripe for such an exercise.

Another indication to this was a reference in the joint statement about unanimous resolve of the government, the institutions and the system that political instability would not be allowed, rather the process of putting the economy back on track and providing assistance to the flood victims would continue unhindered.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has also warned the former Prime Minister that the government will respond with “full force” if he went ahead with the long march and entered the federal capital.

We have been emphasizing in these columns that decisions about vital issues should be based on merit and not on political expediencies.

All political forces have a stake in the system and they ought to resolve their differences through discussion and dialogue and not on streets.

 

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