Penchant for self-destruction – 03 Mar 2023

By Raoof Hasan

“When we don’t put the brakes on our self-absorption, we have nothing stopping us from total self-destruction. We become the fruits of our actions.” — Zeena Schreck

As a matter of routine, every political dispute is landing in courts of law these days for resolution. Though a sad reflection on the failure of other state institutions, including parliament, it provides the only remedial avenue amidst the existent polarized and caustic environment where every activity is perceived as a life-and-death situation.

After a humiliating drubbing the opposition cabal received at the hands of the PTI in the recently held Rajanpur by-election, a feeling of complete political obliteration of the incumbents has intensified, thus accentuating the tension further.

Having abjectly failed to address the political challenges thrown their way by Imran Khan, the ruling cabal and their handlers are trying to eliminate him on the basis of some flimsy technical ground reflected in the cases which have been registered against him. Another assassination attempt can also not be discounted. Despite excessive partisanship and ceaseless pressure, none of this has worked so far and nothing is likely to work in the future also except for Khan emerging stronger than ever before. This is amply demonstrated by the outcome of the recently held elections which may force the incumbents resorting to illegal and unconstitutional tactics to avert the prospect of any immediate visits to the polling booths.

The talks with the IMF continue to flounder, with the latest reports suggesting that trust deficit among the parties has increased further, thus jeopardizing the conclusion of the parleys. Some media reports suggest the government’s unease with being pressurized to comply with all prior actions agreed with the IMF ahead of reaching a staff level agreement to facilitate the release of the economic bailout. Understandably, the government is unwilling to do this fearing a massive political cost that it may have to pay.

To add to the government’s agony, the Supreme Court has ordered that elections for the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) should be held within the constitutionally stipulated period of ninety days. In KP, the governor has been tasked to announce the date of elections and the president has been authorized to give the date for elections in Punjab where the governor had not signed the dissolution order.

If Rajanpur could be an indicator of the prevalent mood in the country, these elections are likely to throw up strong PTI governments in both provinces which will be for a period of five years. Thus, the party will be ruling in Punjab and KP when the general elections are held throughout the country later this year, giving it a distinct advantage at the hustings. It is yet to be seen whether the government and other relevant state institutions accept this verdict and take urgent steps to complete the electoral process within the period as defined by the SC, or they practise defiance to subvert its implementation.

Ever since the execution of the regime change operation and the installation of a cabal comprising convicts, absconders and under-trial criminals, it has been palpably clear that they were not interested in elections in the country and would rather rule by diktat of their handlers and masters.

Consequently, they have used every opportunity to subvert the democratic and constitutional path and replace it instead with a fascist brand aimed solely at driving fear among people to keep them from supporting Imran Khan. This tactic has backfired to an extent that their own political relevance has been effectively jeopardised throughout the country and, consequently, they have been forced to resort to the use of unconstitutional means to survive in the annals of power. With the passage of time, even that seems to be slipping out of their grip and they may soon be left totally rudderless adrift the stormy currents, staring into their political oblivion.

What a turnaround the country has witnessed in the last ten months! A government that was inducted riding the bandwagon of support from the powerful quarters and planning to rule to eternity has been effectively reduced to shreds. The piles upon piles of disaster the incumbents have accumulated is without precedence, notwithstanding the dismal standards of government throughout the years since Pakistan attained independence.

This government has an extremely poor track record to showcase, be it on the administrative, economic or moral scale, or be it a measure of its adherence to legal and constitutional obligations to keep the country on course to strengthening its democratic credentials. In fact, democracy was never more endangered than it has been in the last ten months when every vestige of law and constitution has been mutilated to elongate their sojourn in the power corridors.

The country seems to be turning a new leaf in its chequered history – a leaf where decisions will be entrusted with the people of the country which they will take through exercising their inviolable right to vote. Every democratic mindset would be thinking in terms of holding more elections rather than less. For example, let’s think in terms of a four-year term of the assemblies instead of the existing five. Let’s think of giving more power to the people at the grassroots level and more opportunities to them to exercise it in a free, fair and transparent manner.

The stress should be on empowering people rather than the one per cent illicitly created beneficiary elite which has swindled the state and its promise for all the years of Pakistan’s existence. This has wreaked destruction in the past and, if allowed to perpetuate further, it would bring the country down as is being speculated by pundits in the existent environment of an administrative and economic bankruptcy, aggravated further with a complete moral collapse across all echelons of society. Numerous fault-lines have been carved into the national body politic which are being patronized by criminal factions operating within the governmental structure. It is only through strict adherence to the constitution, and the rule of law that flows from it, that the state can be saved from the blushes of the looming default and an administrative paralysis which it has virtually suffered from since the induction of the criminal cabal.

Free and fair elections would only be the first step, and not the only step, to put the country back on the rails. What is imperative is to divorce this penchant for self-destruction meant to save the political careers of some who have impaired the national face with their vile and wicked shenanigans. The time has also come to confine the shadows permanently to where they belong and block their forays into the political domain. The SC has delivered a good decision to begin with.

The writer is a political and security strategist, former special assistant to former PM Imran Khan, and currently a fellow at King’s College London. He tweets @RaoofHasan

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