Who will do damage control?

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A number of developments that the people witnessed on Monday sent confusing signals all around with saner and patriotic citizens wondering as to who will do the damage control and when to pacify the highly volatile situation.

These include snail-paced proceedings of the case in the Supreme Court, the haste with which the Prime Minister has proposed name of former CJP Gulzar Ahmad for the coveted post of caretaker PM, joint news conference of the opposition leaders demanding of the military leadership to clarify position about the ‘Lettergate’, news conferences by leader of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz and Aleem Khan, a (former) close confidant of the PTI chief, a statement issued by Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) detailing challenges in the way of early polls, concerns being expressed by the business community over unending political tension and constitutional crisis, plunge in stock market and suspension of the IMF programme at a time when foreign exchange reserves are coming down alarmingly.

No doubt, the apex court is seized with the issue but there is universal consensus that it is not showing the level of urgency required in the given scenario.

There were expectations that the court would pass a short order on the very first day (Sunday), then the worthy CJP was quoted at the outset of the proceedings on Monday that an ‘appropriate’ order would be passed ‘today’ but later he said the court would give its ruling after listening to all parties, which means no timeframe, giving the Government free hand to consolidate its actions, move forward as it did in the case of nomination of a caretaker PM and at the end the court might accept it as a fait accompli.

The court has also not accepted the otherwise genuine plea of the opposition lawyers that a full court should be constituted to hear this historic case.

A judge on the bench remarked that any instant judgement will have repercussions but no instant verdict also has repercussions, which should also be taken into consideration.

It would also be in the fitness of things if the Election Commission (major stakeholder in the electoral process) is also heard by the SC before delivering any verdict as the ECP has expressed its inability to do so within the timeline prescribed by the Constitution.

In the absence of any remedy, there is also free for all vis-à-vis election of leader of the house in the Punjab Assembly.

The elections, which were originally scheduled for March 3 were delayed for March 6 but one of the two candidates Hamza Shahbaz has accused that furniture of the Punjab Assembly was broken under the supervision of Pervez Elahi as a precursor to suspend about 40 MPAs in a bid to deny majority to him.

This is a serious allegation and assumes substance as it was the Government, which imposed a complete ban on media coverage of the session in question that would have made everything and every move clear.

Remarks made by Ch Pervez Elahi and Basharat Raja while talking to newsmen in which they justified attempts by the treasury side to forcibly bring back dissident members from the opposition benches confirm obstruction to free voting.

Disciplinary action can definitely be taken against defecting MPAs after they cast their vote but it is illegal to drag them to the other side before the voting. The concerns of the opposition must be addressed by the court.

In a related development, the opposition leaders have demanded of the military spokesperson to clarify the proceedings of the National Security Committee as Imran Khan was using the theory of foreign conspiracy to justify his ‘coup’.

The opposition has also demanded of the Foreign Ministry to produce correspondence on this issue between March and 27.

These demands are relevant as the Government has built its case entirely on the diplomatic cable and it is right of the aggrieved party to view the original correspondence especially when there are also media reports about tempering of the original letter.

The apex court should also take into account valid points raised by FAFEN, which has expressed apprehensions that any delay (in delivering the verdict) will continue to accrue collateral issues arising out of the constitutional deadlock.

It has justifiably pointed out that public confusion and political divisions that have already arisen as a result can potentially translate into violent expression.

The fears expressed by leaders and representatives of the business community over continuation of the constitutional crisis proved right by the negative behaviour of the stock market, further devaluation of rupee and implications of suspension of IMF programme but the question arises who will do the damage control.

 

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