Ambassador Alam Brohi comments on the ongoing
Dialogue For A Way Out – The civilised world recognises the process of dialogue as the most effective way to resolve political and constitutional deadlocks or diplomatic impasses. However, the intentions and the purpose underpinning the process count more than talks. The success or breakdown of dialogue depends on the will of the engaging parties to find a middle path for give and take. Wisdom and statesmanship are keys to success while inflexibility or intransigence is a recipe for failure.
Measured by the above yardstick, the ongoing dialogue between the PDM regime and the opposition to resolve the political and constitutional deadlock over the holding of the elections does not hold out much hope given the dismal history of the hardened political divide and intolerance shown by our leaders. We have been witness to this insanity for over five decades. We sadly observed the failure of abortive talks between President Ayub Khan and the Democratic Action Committee, Pakistan People’s Party and the Awami League, Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan National Alliance resulting in military takeovers.
In all these events, the political divide was intense and political tempers high verging on obduracy, political animosity and narrowness of mind. None of the engaging parties showed flexibility in holding to their guns without thinking of the consequences which proved disastrous for the country pushing the nation into the dark shadow of authoritarianism and unrepresentative rule. After the general elections of 1988 made possible by the tragic death of President Zia, the new civilian leadership remained engaged in the political game of musical chairs keeping their narrow political interests over and above the budding democracy and constitutional rule affording an opportunity to the military to strike back.
We returned to democracy in 2008. What we witnessed in the subsequent years reflected the same political impetuosity, the same unbridgeable divide and the race for power with the support of the invisible powers. There was chaos with leaders seeking disqualification of fellow politicians, indulging in litigations, long marches, sit-ins, tongue-lacerating and vituperative campaigns against each other and disputing the credentials of state institutions. The general elections of 2013 were termed as Returning Officers’ elections by President Asif Ali Zardari, and the 35 punctures by Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf. The results of the 2018 elections were disputed by all the losing political parties with some leaders including the JUI leader suggesting to not take the oath. After a year or so this political unrest morphed into Pakistan Democratic Movement with renewed rancorous public meetings and long marches.
How this campaign ended in the overthrow of the PTI coalition regime giving an impetus to the political popularity of Imran Khan needs no elaboration. The PDM leaders, they admit it or not, committed a blunder in taking the reins of power at a critical moment when the economic conditions with a high inflationary trend were badly impacting the popularity of their political foe. The hunger for power apart, most of these leaders wanted to have relief from the corruption cases instituted rightly or wrongly against them by the PTI regime. It was not in their wildest imagination that the regime change would unburden Imran Khan from the sins of incumbency washing white its score of bad governance. For any understandable reason, Imran Khan emerged as a formidable force to reckon with despite the vicious campaign against him on social media.
The current intense political battle is for the throne of Lahore. The Muslim League (N) under Sharifs remained unbeatable in Punjab which constitutes a bigger part of the country from 1985 to 2018 – smaller breaks notwithstanding. For the first time, the party was dislodged from its citadel by the PTI in 2018. The party was regaining its strength while in the opposition winning many by-elections. The political pundits were sure that the party would stage a fairly good comeback by going into elections as the victimised political opposition.
However, the regime change and the subsequent mishandling of the economy by its economic and financial czar pushed the PMLN into an abyss of political wilderness with the frightening demons of electoral defeat and decimation looming large. The other coalition partners continue enjoying the perks and privileges of power while distancing from every other unpopular step taken by the PMLN. This is the main dilemma of the party which has not even been able to convince some of its coalition partners for dialogue or the implementation of the order of the Supreme Court.
The Sharifs would exercise all options to regain their fiefdom of Punjab. They will go to any length. Their reluctance to hold elections in Punjab within the constitutionally allowed period has much to do with this desire. They know very well that the square defeat in the provincial electoral contest will wipe them out from Punjab in the subsequent National Assembly elections. This is reflected in the hard-hitting statements of some Federal Ministers from the PMLN. Their fear is also shared by the JUI chief to the extent of KP. The Pakistan People’s Party has no hope of making any breakthrough in the provincial and National Assembly elections save the province of Sindh where it continues having political supremacy given the disunity of the disparate nationalist groups.
Therefore, it endeavours to drag on the current PDM regime to the end of its constitutional term. There are, however, fears that the PDM will prolong its power beyond the constitutional term giving the pretexts of a bad economy and worsening security conditions which all economic and security experts point to in all earnest. The PTI committed a blunder by dissolving the provincial Assemblies of Punjab and KP, where it enjoyed a comfortable majority, to force general elections. This move has backfired and placed the PTI leaders, including its chairman, in a difficult situation facing an avalanche of fabricated criminal cases registered against them in the far-flung corners of the country. Though we could not expect much from the talks, the combined pressure of the bar and bench and the opposition can save the Constitution from bludgeon. The Weekender
Alam Brohi is former
Ambassador of Pakistan and was associated with Foreign Service of Pakistan