Noor Israr mentions the untenable political situation in the crucial province of Pakistan
The most potent and problematic political situation in Punjab still uncertain has made life extremely difficult for the incumbent coalition government. It is quite obvious that unless the Punjab issue is solved the political uncertainty will keep on weakening the writ of the federal government as its political base is Punjab and the largest political party in the coalition government is heavily dependent upon the strength of the public representatives in both the federal and provincial assemblies. It is getting conspicuously clear that the reason of the uncertain situation in Punjab is due to the inexplicable policy pursued by the arbitrary forces of the country that apparently have become suddenly indecisive. This enigmatic reality has put the country into a state of limbo and no one knows where it would end and takes the country to which direction. This uncertainty is badly affecting the political scenario and is directly responsible for the confusion prevalent in the country.
There is one credible factor that is apparently responsible for the uncertainty surrounding the government and that pertains to internal friction within the different segments of the provincial polity that appears to be at odds with the segments operating on federal level. It would be however be kept in view that the resolution to a crisis does not necessarily end the way it is envisaged. The present political crisis can make the existing players irrelevant, by throwing up new ones and this could be the most damaging factors hidden under the political crisis. This is quite obvious that the current problems are the outcome of the feud between Pakistani elites that are unwilling to mend their ways and alter their perceptions about the country itself. This dichotomy is evident in all aspects of the national life and is intensifying the prevailing void in the country that is actually at the every base of uncertainty found in Punjab.
By the looks of it the Supreme Court of Pakistan gave an order to hold a re-election for the office of chief minister of Punjab and it looked to have settled the issue but in fact it created more constitutional and legal complexities as is now experienced. Dubbed as a political compromise, the court restored status quo ante setting aside the majority judgment of the Lahore High Court ordering a run-off election for the office of the chief minister in case neither candidate secured the House majority of 186 members. It was pointed out in this respect that perhaps the decision in this case should have been based on the merits of the law rather than what is seen to be a compromise resolution of the dispute between the rival parties. With the latest verdict, the judiciary seems to have unintentionally entered the political arena which is not desirable as politically the decision is likely to prolong the prevalent uncertainty in the province.
The prolonged crisis in Punjab has weakened governance in the province, with those in authority unsure of where they stand. It cannot be said with assurance that the outcome of the upcoming by-polls and re-election of the chief minister would be able to cool political temperatures and end the political uncertainty as the issue is such larger in content than is generally perceived. The prospect of the fall of an already teetering administration in the country’s biggest province could make the situation increasingly untenable for a fractious coalition set-up at the federal level. The ensuing chaos would suit no one but the forces that take the maximum benefits out of political uncertainty and strengthen its arbitrary stance that propagates that political elements are not suitable enough to handle the governance of the country.
It may also be taken in consideration that the crisis in Punjab has a direct bearing on the federal government particularly in the wake of the notification of five Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf members on reserved seats for women and minorities. The political count has clearly brought to fore the unsavoury reality that the coming by-elections on 20 provincial assembly seats could well seal the coalition administration’s fate that is hanging by a thread. This matter is borne out by the earlier example whereby despite having the support of 25 Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf defectors, including five members on reserved seats, the PMLN candidate returned with a very thin majority. On top of that Hamza Shehbaz failed to take up his position for weeks because of the then governor’s refusal to administer the oath of office, leaving the province without an effective administration. Though the governor was removed with considerable difficulty but the uncertainty remained.
It adds to the confusion that there exist considerable doubts about the level of political support held by Hamza Shehbaz and the situation has become further complicated in the backdrop of notification of five members nominated by the PTI against the vacant seats. It must be taken into account that in the 16 April election, boycotted by PTI and its allies, Hamza Shehbaz got 197 votes, including those of 25 PTI dissidents and some independent members but the de-seating of PTI renegades has reduced the number of his supporters in the House to 172 leaving him with less than what is required to establish a majority in the assembly. It is interesting to observe that the inclusion of five members of reserved seats will increase the numbers of the opposition.
Another factor to take into account is the 17 July by-elections scheduled to be held for 20 seats and the results of such by-election may further complicate the situation and, for the moment, the unprecedented inflation in the country, has lowered the popularity of PMLN and the odds seem to be stacked against it that may decisively influence the voting position in Punjab assembly. It is also noted that the granting of tickets to PTI deserters may cause heartburn to the PMLN supporters and the choice of candidates may play in the hands of PTI and its allies. PTI basically was cobbled together with electables who may go their own way and may not support PMLN as most of them have a history of aligning themselves with any party in power. In this context the influence exerted on them by the arbitrary forces can radically change the situation.
Many political observers point out to the local rivalries in constituency politics and the problem could emerge when the candidates are constrained to defend some of the economic measures that are fuelling the rising cost of living. It is not unusual that the PTI and its allies are exploiting this turnaround and may well be able to make a dent in the PMLN support base. Added to this scenario is the rising popularity of the former PM and his cohorts in Punjab and may well prove detrimental to the cause of PMLN and the future of any government that it plans to make in the province. It is therefore imperative that PMLN wins between 16 and 20 seats in 17 July election that appears to be quite an ask keeping in view the economic problems and the presence of many dissenters within its ranks. So the uncertainty remains and, in fact, is looming large and may remain the dominant factor in the country. TW