Gridlock in state affairs – 22 Feb 2023


So where are we heading, if not a confrontation?

With defiance in the air, the dye for elections has been cast for April 9. President Dr Arif Alvi’s decision on Monday to announce the ballot date for both the dissolved provincial legislatures in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has swung a pendulum that might lead to a high-drama in the court of law. The ruling dispensation at the Federation has literally declared a state of war against the Presidency, and the electoral watchdog is unrelenting as it knits excuses to avoid polls within the constitutionally stipulated period of 90 days.

So where are we heading, if not a confrontation? And that too at a time when political stability is on the rocks and the economy is down and out. Notwithstanding, the interpretation whether the head of state’s exercising of his prerogative under Article 42, read with Section 57(1) of the Elections Act, 2017, is lawful or not, this moment of astute gridlock in state affairs doesn’t bode well for the continuation of representative rule. Until and unless all stakeholders stand down from their stated positions and cobble for a breakthrough, the chips are down for democracy.

The theatre that has been going on behind the curtains — at respective governor houses, the Election Commission and the Presidency — hints at institutional restlessness. Many say the choosing of April 9 by the President is intended as a déjà vu for the ousted government of PTI, which since then has been longing in the wilderness. But others term it as the last possible Sunday to go to ballot, as enshrined under the constitutional dictates. But one thing is clear, the poles of power are in a clashing mode, and there is hardly any semblance of rationality at work.

With not much known whether the federal government will challenge the presidential proclamation or not, each passing day is adding to uncertainty. Coupled with this is the ‘court arrest’ movement of PTI from today, which will certainly bring more odds and misery. Will someone pause for a while and make some introspection by simply letting the constitution take its course?

Read more