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Are we on a Collision Course?

M. Ziauddin

Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, DG ISPR, has advised against dragging army into politics. The armed forces already have their “hands full” with the “huge responsibility of looking after security, internal and external threats” —-A message for Pakistani politicians across the board.

Buying and selling votes is a crime. More so if this is being done by the very people who are demanding respect for the ‘Vote’ (Vote Ko Izzat do!). On the other hand, those who had wanted the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) to approve a hurriedly promulgated Ordinance and instruct the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to stop this practice forthwith also did not appear to be occupying any higher moral pedestal.

The PPP and PMLN, as per their pledge in the Charter of Democracy should have gotten rid of the vote selling-buying bias from the Senate polls through the 18th amendment. That they did not think of tackling the issue even during the following eight years the two remained in the saddle in Islamabad one after the other makes their failing even more unpardonable.

But Prime Minister Imran Khan matches the blame equally as even after having suffered from the menace in 2018 when a number of his party MPAs from KPK sold their votes he did nothing other than kick out the suspected culprits from the Party. Even more inexcusable was his move to join hands with the PPP to topple the PMLN government in Balochistan and then getting Sadiq Sanjrani of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), PTI’s coalition partner in Quetta elected as Senate Chairman despite not having the required number of votes to defeat the opposition’s candidate. He repeated the unpardonable act when the opposition tried to have Chairman Sanjrani replaced through a no-confidence vote.

And by not seeking opposition’s cooperation for getting the proposed October 2020 amendment to Senate polls passed by parliament the PM had missed one more opportunity to fix the wrong well in time. The opposition equally shares the blame. It was only just about a month before the forthcoming Senate polls that the PM suddenly woke up seemingly with a sense of extraordinary urgency and promulgated the above mentioned futile ordinance.

The move failed and PDM candidate, former PPP Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani won a Senate seat from Islamabad despite not having the required numbers to defeat the ruling coalition candidate, federal finance minister, Hafeez Sheikh. He is now bidding for the Senate Chairman’s seat. In his emotionally charged reaction the PM blamed the ECP for Sheikh’s defeat. The ECP responded through a press release asking him to behave. The PM accuses the opposition of buying as many as 20 of his party members to tilt the result in its favor. A video is in circulation showing one of candidate Gilani’s son allegedly bribing a couple in return for getting their votes cancelled. One of the PTI members from Karachi has publicly admitted that it was a sting operation. No money is said to have passed hands. In Balochistan, the PTI announced a ticket for a person who was not even a member of the party but alleged to have bought it paying millions. When questioned, party people tried to justify this decision by saying that he was a joint candidate for the PTI and its coalition partner BAP. However, after an outcry from the local rank and file of the party in the province, the PTI took back the ticket from him. He then decided to contest as an independent. And indeed, after winning he has joined the PTI with the PM himself awarding him the coveted membership in full public glare.

What happened the other day in front of the parliament building when the PM was seeking vote of confidence inside was waiting to happen since the day PTI coalition government took oath of office in 2018. The crowd of PTI ‘goons’ which attacked the PMLN leaders including former Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi, former Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, former Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb had appeared to be necessarily inspired. Every politician worth his/her name, including the Speaker of the Nation[1]al Assembly, Asad Qaisar has personally condemned the incident.

The defiance to the authority that Imran Khan showed from the container and the abusive language he had used against the then government, especially the leadership of PMLN, PPP and JUI (F) were passed off then as political exaggerations indulged in by the opposition in electioneering mode. But to continue in the same mode even after becoming the country’s PM was bound to elicit the same from the other side. And what happened in Daska was the logical outcome of the rude rhetoric having taken over the senses of the politicians at large with political tolerance taking a back seat.

The PDM had boycotted the confidence vote session on the grounds that it was unconstitutional because the president had advised the PM to obtain vote of confidence without mentioning any reason, whereas under the relevant rules the president could advise the PM to do so only if he was satisfied that Imran Khan had lost the confidence of the House.

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