Umair Ali discusses an option
In Pakistan, the most intense debate taking place currently is about holding & Are early elections the way out and the central point of this debate is that it is the only viable way out of the prevailing political and economic crises. Keeping in view the deep-seated rivalries between political elements operating in the country it is thought imperative to go for obtaining a fresh public mandate for carrying out governance exercise as the ongoing governance is supposed to have lost its credibility after the regime change that is strongly resented by the previous party in power. Side by side however it is also pointed out that the regime change was constitutional and there is no need to go for elections as there is almost a year left before the current electoral mandate given in 2018 runs out. The intense self-righteous partisanship therefore at the moment has ushered in a profound spate of instability that is exacerbating the sharp downturn experienced by the national economy.
There are incessant for and against arguments for conducting a fresh electoral exercise. The most potent argument put forward by many non-partisan elements is the large expenditure this exercise will entail. They emphasise that the current financial crunch requires that dwindling financial resources should be spared the brunt of a nationwide electoral exercise. It is also mentioned that the time-gap between holding elections now and at their appointed time next year is quite short and it would not be appropriate to hasten the exercise. It is also pointed out that the current fraction-ridden political climate may produce large-scale violence that would be detrimental for the people and the country. In addition it is argued that the immediate priority for the governmental machinery should be on steadying the wobbly economic ship before embarking upon an electoral contest.
It should be kept in mind that for a widely consensual exercise like elections a harmonious political cooperation is required but this crucial element is singularly missing in the current scenario. Two political camps with virtually antagonistic view points are propagating their own brand of politics laden with mutual acrimony and complete denial of each other’s positions. This perceptive division is very deep and apparently no common ground can be explored within them making it very cumbersome to hold a national election. These camps stand vertically opposite to each other and have shown no flexibility in recognising and accepting respective stances. Not even the lack of accommodating each other’s position is all that matters but there exists a complete lack of trust between them that indicates that both of them will not accept election results if they come against them.
To make problems even more complicated is the rather ambivalent attitude of the state institutions that traditionally have acquired power to act as intermediaries. Such forces are giving the impression of getting themselves extricated from political activities though both contending political forces do not assign much credibility to the position taken by the arbitrators. This situation has practically brought about a state of unreliability on the state apparatus that for considerably long time had held the levers of political power. The sudden withdrawal of such power has given rise not only to a strong disbelief but it has also depressed the contending political forces that find the task of keeping an equitable balance between political perception and practice very difficult to achieve as they never had a chance to decisively tackle such issues on their own in the past. This confounding vacuum has practically numbed the political process and it has gone into a state of inertia and may take longer to adjust to this void and devise ways of mutual existence.
The current, therefore, is not holding elections quickly but for the political forces to take matters into their hands with a view to evolve an appropriate methodology to address national political issues on their own. It appears that slowly this reality is dawning on the rival political elements but this will take time to properly sink in. This may appear novel to them but this is how a clean slate looks and feels like demanding a much deeper analysis and understanding to begin writing afresh on it. It should be kept in view that the withdrawal of the arbitrary force as the mediator will prove beneficial in the long run and this opportunity should not be squandered. The withdrawn forces cannot go further than what they have stated in the current scenario and the political mindset should try to understand this point. They should do their best to ensure that the arbitrary forces do not feel encouraged to come back with the same degree of authority as before. Keeping the arbitrary forces where they have retreated is surely more important than holding elections and this is the cardinal point that is required to be kept in view. TW