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March 8, 2021

Neutrality thrown to the wind?

National

March 8, 2021

The legitimacy issue may continue to haunt the government like Banquo’s ghost to Macbeth -- encompassing guilty conscience. The immediate decision to seek vote of confidence without following the constitutional procedure was clearly the manifestation of the desperation of the ruling party to reclaim the lost ground after the Senate elections of Islamabad, in particular. The release of video of prime minister meeting the army chief and the DG (ISI) just before the last Saturday session of the House was apparently meant for the consumption of dissident parliamentarians in particular, and others in general, to stay in line. It clearly pointed out to the nervousness of the PTI of saving the sinking ship that was fraught with dangers after the winning of Senate elections of Islamabad by PDM candidate, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani. The official agencies seemingly sprang into action leaving no stone unturned to ensure the availability of treasury benches parliamentarians under their watchful eyes. It was apparently planned to impede the repetition of the earlier vote pattern of Senate elections that could have sent the government home packing.

The PTI leadership ‘May Day’ call after the Islamabad Senate elections debacle seemingly provoked the agencies and the state institutions to throw ‘neutrality ‘in the wind for the time being in favour of taking side again, though surreptitiously. The Opposition leaders in their media talks clearly held out that government backers ‘selectors’ ensured the availability and loyalty of the ruling coalition parliamentarians who were kept under their intrusive surveillance till the vote of confidence in favour of the prime minister. Chairman Bilawal Bhutto, Co- Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, Maryam Nawaz and the PDM Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in their media talks last Saturday minced no words to apportion the blame where it specifically laid.

It makes no sense to lick the one’s wounds with intensity as it may hurt deeper to the bone. The hullabaloo of the ruling party after losing the Senate seat from Islamabad was like washing the linen in public as it explicitly blamed its members of selling their conscience for money. The PTI leadership was red faced as quite a number of ruling coalition parliamentarians had voted in favour of PDM candidate enabling Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani to score victory. Chasing red hearings afterwards may not deflect the attention of the public from the reality of the fault lines within the treasury benches that were frequently reported in the multiple news media. The leadership did not bother to pay heed to the festering issue. The PDM challenge to the ruling party leadership to disclose the names of those who sold their conscience was a smart move that seemingly got struck in the gullet of the ruling leadership because it could neither swallow it nor spit it out. It would not confront them in the future as well because their support may continue hold the balance of power.

Unfortunately, the prime minister in his recent address to the nation and his speech in the House scapegoated the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as responsible for the electoral embarrassment because it did not made the arrangements of identifiable votes of the Senate elections. How ironic, he did not feel the necessity of such arrangements in the provinces where the ECP held elections on the basis of secret ballot. It may surely fall in the category of Machiavellian mindset that is prone to embrace what suits to the prince and rejects that does not. Appreciably, the ECP stood its ground firmly, and rebutted the allegations by asserting the holding of Senate elections on the basis of secret ballot as per Constitution mandate, ‘strict adherence to the Constitution is our only yardstick’ the ECP asserted.

Winning and losing is part of the democratic politics and its denial may be deemed as betrayal to the standardized democratic practices and conventions. Opposition is considered as government in waiting in the parliamentary system of government. The despotic mindset does not subscribe to the democratic dynamics and therefore use all instruments of power at its hand to perpetuate the rule by hook or crook. The incumbent government governance is sadly considered as falling in the close proximity of the dictatorial rule because it does not accept the Opposition as the integral part of the democratic dispensation. Instead, the ruling leadership is always in the lookout to browbeat the Opposition to submission, an impossible and illegitimate task.

Government’s step motherly treatment meted out to the arms of the government, legislature and judiciary, and the other constitutional institutions bears witness to the well-entrenched perception of sparing no opportunity to bring them under pressure to seek the favorable outcome. It may be recalled that ex-chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa warned the prime minister do not hurl taunt at judiciary as ‘two judicial system’ when the superior court rejected the government’s plea pertaining to the PML-N supermo’s departure abroad was made contingent upon ‘Indemnity bond’. The latest target is the ECP after the Senate elections of Islamabad as the prime mister and the Cabinet members have unleashed the barrage of criticism against the constitutional institution (ECP) while forgetting the dividends of inordinate delay in the foreign funding case. The verdict of foreign funding case may have the potential to seal the political fate of the party for all times to come. The PTI has also reduced the Parliament as the godforsaken forum notorious for name calling, unsavory speeches and obnoxious behavior of the lawmakers.

The Parliament is supposed to be a forum of debate, scrutiny and legislation instead of reducing it to the wrestling pit. Indeed, the basic responsibility lies on the shoulders of the ruling party to create an enabling environment, but it seems allergic to do so and has launched a smear campaign of witch-hunting imbedded in using invective language against the political opponents. This politicking has squarely queered the pitch of democratic functioning. The berating of the Parliament has been in the public domain, if not by design but more so by default. The probability of by design may not be ruled out because in democracy ruling party always tries to seek the cooperation of the opposition for the smooth sailing. The exception in case of incumbent Leader of the House is both mind- blowing and infuriating. The reason of this kind of logic defying conduct may be best known to him or his backers.

The foisting of the incumbent government upon the people of Pakistan has not accrued the desired results as the good governance continues to be far-fetched cry even after the completion of the half term .The ‘hybrid system’ is seemingly falling apart under its own weight due to the legitimacy issue that has been tightening its straightjacket around the neck of incumbent government since it came to power. It has seemingly come to full circle after going through the results of the recently held by-elections in the country and the winning of the Senate seat from Islamabad by PDM inflicting fatal blow to the PTI leadership and its government with the prognosis of the chips falling where they may.

The news and views explicitly attribute the defeat largely to the poor selection of the PTI Dr Hafeez Shaikh as its candidate. It made comparatively easier for PDM candidate, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, notwithstanding other factors, to score the stunning victory. The victory of the PDM had indeed boosted the political capital of the Opposition. On the contrary, the dawn of political apocalypse has seemingly descended on the ruling party as it is finding difficult to reconcile with the aftermaths of the by-elections and the Senate elections of Islamabad. The unfolding of double jeopardy encompassing the embarrassment of Daska by-election and losing of the Senate seat from Islamabad could not be starker. The cockamamie of NA-75, in the face of impeccable anecdotal evidences, was so ridiculous that ECP had to take action on the same day by judging the outcome of the pooling as ‘falsified’ followed by the ECP bold decision to hold elections in NA-75 again later this month.

The ruling party seemingly became the victim of its flaunted hubris and over confidence. This frame of thinking obviously did not take into account the resentment of the elected parliamentarians against the non-elected persons who had been increasingly assuming the central stage in the corridor of power while the parliamentarians were sidelined to their utter dismay. They had been pouring their heart time and again before the top leadership of PTI to address their grievances but no avail.

The prime minister’s epiphany tried to win over the parliamentarians when he announced that each MNA and MPA of PTI would be given fat wads of Rs500 million development funds to carry out development in their respective constituencies. It means that the prime minister was conscious of the estrangement among the treasury benches but fell short of addressing their reservations. However, the timing was not right as lot of waters had already flown down the bridges. The lawmakers rather felt insulted as the development funds ham-fisted move later proved as sleight of hand when in the Court of Law the government Law Officer declined the confirmation of the validity of such decision. All odds were seemingly stalked against the (PTI) pushing it increasingly close to the knife’s edge.

Muhammad Shaheedi @yahoo.com