President definitely has a role

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AT a time when the rival political parties are on a course of collision, the statement of President Dr Arif Alvi that he was ready to talk to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and PTI Chairman Imran Khan for the sake of the country, has widely been acclaimed by all those who are weary of the politics of confrontation and want the politicians to sort out their differences through discussion and dialogue.

Talking to a select group of journalists in Lahore on Friday, the President said he will try to mitigate the hatred between the two leaders and create a favourable environment for early elections.

During his interaction, Dr Alvi also dilated upon a number of issues that continue to agitate the minds of patriotic people of Pakistan including the tendency of attacking national institutions.

The President pointed out that he had been asking politicians not to bring the Army into discussion as it is guarantor of the country’s security, adding it should not be made controversial and should be given its due respect.

The office of the head of the state, under the Constitution, is supposed to be neutral and, therefore, the President definitely has a role to play if the country was heading in the wrong direction due to political infighting.

Being a symbol of the federation, the President can make both formal and informal contribution to lower the political tension and temperature.

It is with this in view that we have been emphasizing in these columns that the President ought to play his role in the backdrop of rising tension and the atmosphere of uncertainty that is taking a heavy toll on the country’s economy.

The remarks of the President that he was ‘ready to play a role’ are merely an expression of desire to see the warring side sit on the negotiating table to sort out their differences and not an intention to take a concrete initiative.

One fails to understand what prevents the President from playing his role in diffusing political tension when each and every saner person in the country wants this to happen.

Dr Alvi says he talked more with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on phone than he talked to Imran Khan when he was the Chief Executive.

No one knows for sure what topics they covered in their telephonic conversations but there is no reason the Prime Minister would object or not listen to the President if the issue of rising political confrontation is raised.

Reconciliation is the dominant personality trait of the PM Shehbaz Sharif and he is on record having made repeated offers to the Government for talks on national issues and cooperation of the Opposition in resolving challenges when he was Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly.

He also repeated his offer of talks to the Opposition after assumption of power but all goodwill gestures were cold shouldered by the other side.

The President also told journalists that Imran Khan was his close friend and he remains in touch with him on WhatsApp.

Why not take advantage of this intimacy to persuade Khan to help cool down the political atmosphere?

To be able to play a role, the President has to send a strong signal to the coalition government about his neutrality and sincerity of purpose, which stands clouded when Dr Alvi pleads the cause of his party (PTI) for early elections.

No doubt, the fundamental demand of the PTI is immediate polls but the Government too has its own point of view that merits due consideration.

Therefore, it would not be a wise approach to attach pre-conditions or highlight the point of view of one side to the detriment of the other as this has implications for your capacity to play the role of an honest broker.

Of course, a middle ground can be found on the issue of timing of the general election on the known principle of ‘give and take’ but this has to happen during the talks.

The President has rightly called upon all parties to avoid attacking national institutions and his concern in this regard is understandable as the strength of a country is in direct proportion to the strength of its institutions.

We hope all political parties would listen to the dispassionate appeal of the President to show respect for national institutions.

 

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