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Imran’s shifting narrative

Politics in Pakistan, regrettably, continues to be characterized by devious and dirty antics by political parties and their leaders. The irresistible propensity among political actors to defy the constitution, law and democratic norms to achieve their narrow political agenda of clinching political power and then clinging to it has landed the nation into debilitating crises. And yet, despite these self-inflicted tragedies, they refuse to learn and change course.

The current political crisis in the country that started with the filing of a no-confidence motion against Imran Khan by the PDM parties – and which consequently led to his ouster from power followed by desperate attempts by him to build a narrative of foreign conspiracy against his government – is quintessential of the political culture described in the foregoing paragraphs.

Although I do not support the move to orchestrate the fall of governments before their mandated tenure, I have to admit that the PDM parties used their constitutional right to file a no-confidence motion and it is for the first time in the history of Pakistan that a prime minister has been removed through constitutional means. As it was a constitutional move, it should have been confronted or countered through recognized democratic norms and constitutional means. But that was not to be.

Initially attempts were made to delay voting on the motion in defiance of Article 95 of the constitution. Then, notwithstanding the fact that the motion had been admitted by the speaker on March 25 for voting on April 3, the deputy speaker rejected the motion using a ‘foreign conspiracy’ as a pretext by misinterpreting Article 5 of the constitution.

The Supreme Court as custodian of the constitution immediately took notice of what had happened and after hearing lawyers of all the stakeholders came up with a unanimous verdict that the ruling by the deputy speaker and consequent actions of dissolving the assembly and going for new elections were ultra vires and against the constitution. It ordered the vote of no-confidence be held on the 9th of April.

As the whole nation saw live, the NA session was adjourned three times during which the government MNAs made lengthy speeches heaping scorn on the opposition parties and recounting the achievements of the PTI. It all indicated that the government was reluctant to abide by the orders of the court.

It was probably in anticipation of the likelihood of defiance of the court orders that SC and IHC judges opened the courts before midnight to deal with any unconstitutional ploy – and rightly so. Prisoner vans and a few military vehicles also made their appearance around parliament. Realizing that there was no way out, the deputy speaker came to the assembly, announced that he could not be part of the assembly proceedings and handed over the chair to Ayaz Sadiq to conduct the proceedings of the no-confidence motion. The entire episode reflected disrespect for the constitution and the judicial verdict of the apex court.

It is pertinent to point out that long before the filing of the no-confidence motion and even after it, the writing on the wall was clear for Imran Khan. The opposition had mustered the numbers for the success of the motion. When all machinations to thwart the move by the opposition failed, Imran Khan changed gears. Anticipating the success of the no-confidence motion, he came up with the international conspiracy theory at his public rally in Islamabad on March 27. Since then he has been hammering this rhetoric in his public rallies and even at the press conference addressed by him, notwithstanding the fact that the NSC meeting held under his chairmanship and the one recently presided by PM Shehbaz Sharif clearly refuted the contention regarding conspiracy and the DG ISPR in his press conference had also given lie to it.

Meanwhile, former minister Fawad Chaudhry in an interview with a private channel in response to a question remarked: “Had our relationship with the establishment been good then we would have still been in government.” This was a negation of the conspiracy theory. Then Imran Khan himself in his rally at Lahore while sticking to the international conspiracy theory, also said that those who had made the mistake should rectify it by holding immediate elections – the allusion manifestly clear. Imran also demanded removal of the chief election commissioner, contending that the CEC was biased. He seems to have a problem with the judiciary, the ECP, the establishment, the US and the PDM parties. He now also wishes to stage a sit-in Islamabad like the one in 2014. This saga of shifting sands also adequately scuttles the credibility of his conspiracy theory.

In his press conference, he also demanded the SC to form a commission of inquiry to probe the conspiracy issue, not knowing that the apex court on its own cannot form a commission of inquiry. Under the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act 2017 which replaced a similar Act of 1956, it is only the federal government which can form a commission of inquiry. He needs to be reminded that the judicial commission which was formed to probe his allegations of rigging in the General Election 2013 was also formed through a presidential decree after the ruling PML-N and his party signed an agreement to this effect.

Imran Khan is well advised to get his act right, and refrain from unconstitutional antics and inciting his followers to violence. Immediate elections without reforms will not bring stability to an already volatile situation. Even for the appointment of a new election commissioner, consensus between the serving prime minister and the opposition leader is a constitutional obligation. Therefore, Imran has no option other than to remain in parliament and hold dialogue with his opponents, setting aside his delusional hubris. In a democratic dispensation, engagement is the name of the game and it needs to be played according to the constitution and democratic norms.

Malik Muhammad Ashraf, "Imran’s shifting narrative," The News. 2022-04-26.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political culture , Political actors , Elections , Democratic , Parliament , Imran Khan , PM Shahbaz Sharif , Pakistan , PDM , CEC