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Twists and turns of a political nightmare

The vote of no-confidence against former prime minister Imran Khan earlier in the year was a painful process. After many twists and turns, the vote of no-confidence was ultimately conducted in the National Assembly on the intervention of the Supreme Court.

The present political stalemate is a bizarre and confused state of affairs and – needless to say – has disturbed a rather flabbergasted nation. No one side knows or seems to know political and constitutional limits. But at the moment what Pakistan needs essentially is a stable government to take decisions in the best interest of the people.

Politics is the art of the possible. It is quite interesting to see the political developments in Pakistan since the ouster of former prime minister Imran Khan from his office. First of all, Imran Khan did not believe that the no-confidence move against him could ever succeed. This confidence stemmed from the overt and covert role usually played by political and non-political actors.

When the vote of no-confidence started looking serious, Imran started playing with the constitution by delaying voting on the motion in one way or the other. The epitome of such delaying tactics was the day the then law minister put the cart before the horse by saying that the no-confidence move was an international conspiracy and no voting could be held under the constitution against the then prime minister of Pakistan. The then deputy speaker scuttled the no-confidence move without any voting and prorogued the session of the Assembly. PM Imran Khan took the immediate decision to dissolve the National Assembly, in the process calling for fresh elections.

The whole nation was observing the situation in awe. The Supreme Court intervened by restoring the National Assembly to carry out the constitutional process of voting on the no-confidence motion. The voting was delayed once again by the then treasury benches delivering long speeches on the day of voting. The whole of the nation was on tenterhooks.

Finally, the voting was ensured at the stroke of midnight. The former prime minister used all sorts of constitutional and unconstitutional tactics to scuttle the move against him. Interestingly, he has been known to have said in the past that he would fight till the last ball, as if all this were a cricket match and he a captain bowler.

The chequered political history of Pakistan is replete with such developments, as we observed during the no-confidence move against Imran Khan. There have been so many turns and about-turns in our history, but the Kafkaesque turns of former prime minister Imran Khan have been quite interesting. He started playing games with politics in one way or the other by first levelling allegations against the PDM, saying it was part of an international conspiracy hatched by none other than the world superpower to oust him from the government.

The narrative has somewhat died down now thanks to some hacked audio leaks that revealed Imran’s conversations with his own secretary Azam Khan in the backdrop of the cipher conspiracy. Then he took several turns labelling his opponents as the corruptors of the world, who had no right to rule over the country. Although he failed to prove on so many counts that his opponents were indeed this thoroughly corrupt, his narrative of waging a war against corruption in Pakistan has become very popular.

Other institutions were also rather baffled at being dubbed part of this so-called international conspiracy that allegedly was meant to fulfill the agenda of an opposition destabilizing the country. The twist and turns in the political role of institutions came under discussion on a larger scale than ever in the history of Pakistan. ‘Neutrality’ was criticized in the open in hopes to pressurize the ‘neutrals’ side with the ousted leader and support his narrative. It was quite interesting to see the twist and turns of a leader who wanted a larger and enhanced political role of the institutions to help support him grabbing power for his own ulterior political motives.

A new turn in the political life of this all-time popular leader came a few days back when the Election Commission of Pakistan disqualified him in the Toshakhana case after declaring he had not shown the gifts and proceeds properly in his returns. There was a long debate on whether he had been disqualified for the present term of the National Assembly or for five years or for life, as in the case of former prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif, who was disqualified for life for not declaring his receivable salary, which he never received after finding out definition of assets in Black’s law dictionary. There was also a discussion on whether he had been disqualified for only one seat, and could go for elections even for the current National Assembly, as the word ‘time being’ as given in the used part of the law was quite confusing.

Now Imran Khan is on a long march to force the government and institutions to hold fresh elections, as he thinks that he could sweep the elections. There is no doubt that Imran Khan is a highly popular leader and this popularity came to the fore in the recently-held by-elections where he won six out of seven seats single-handedly against his opponents that came from a thirteen-party alliance.

There is no doubt that Pakistan needs a stable political government and that is not possible without fresh elections. But the alliance seems to be wary of Imran Khan due to his rising popularity owing to multiple factors, especially high inflation and price hikes during the present government. Then how to go about it is a larger question to be answered by the current political government in the coming days and months.

What is the way forward in the presence of this current Kafkaesque nightmare of political instability? More so when coupled with the risks of sovereign default looming large, as being predicted by international rating agencies one after another, now Fitch after Moody’s lowering down rating from B negative to Triple C plus?

There needs to be obvious unity in this hour of necessity; that can better be achieved by holding a political huddle of all political wizards to create a consensus on issues of national importance – including but not limited to holding fresh elections to stabilize this country. Otherwise, all can go awry in the midst of the political and economic crises we are facing right now which are posing monumental challenges and existential threats. Pakistan needs a visionary leadership to control such unquantifiable and unmatchable damages.

Email: hassanbaig2009@gmail.com

Hassan Baig, "Twists and turns of a political nightmare," The News. 2022-10-31.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political instability , Political role , Corruption , Elections , Imran Khan , Azam Khan , Pakistan , PDM