“‘IF suicide was not outlawed (haram) I’d go into parliament with explosives and blow it up,’ shouted a furious Shehryar Afridi, a key star of the governing PTI and the former minister of state for interior, when addressing supporters in Pashto in his Kohat seat last week.”
National Assembly Lose of Trust
Quoted above verbatim is the first paragraph of my piece three weeks ago. Events since then have revealed that this was not an excessive supporter’s outpouring of affection for his leader who lost the trust of the majority of the National Assembly but a reasonably broadly held feeling in the PTI, latest news reported.
Threats such as those made by Fawad Chaudhry assumed a completely frightening character.
Amidst blatant violations of the Constitution by senior members of his party who were ostensibly the guardians of the National Assembly but in the end turned out to be no more than partisan minions, Mr. Chaudhry, who is currently seen as one of the closest advisers to the party leader, was also raising the spectre of ‘martial law’ according to recent news.
Havoc on the Country’s Battered Economy
This warning of martial law and of continued political instability that would wreak greater havoc on the country’s battered economy than even his party’s mismanagement did, came against the backdrop of the no-confidence vote, which is nothing out of the norm in democracies.
The most recent came in the summer of 2018 when the Conservative government of Mariano Rajoy in Spain was deposed, after his key ally parties opted to quit him, and Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was elected to office with a four-vote majority — 180/350. He needed 176 votes.
According to latest news, what happened at the National Assembly last Sunday we witnessed, while events at the PM House we didn’t — but the defiant bubble burst close to midnight and democracy prevailed as the vote of no-confidence went through after the Supreme Court seemed in a mood to enforce its decision.
Alleged Members in Punjab National Assembly
Similar incidents were being witnessed at the Punjab Assembly last Saturday, when members alleged to be in a minority were not allowing the majority will to prevail, and the deputy speaker, who was ordered by the Lahore High Court to hold the chief minister’s election, was assaulted.
As these sentences were being penned, mayhem was prevailing in the provincial assembly hall. Neither the sergeants-at-arms nor the additional security summoned by the deputy speaker were proving to be effective at quelling members determined to physically obstruct the public humiliation of Punjab’s Musharraf-era strongman Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, latest news reported.
In a curious coincidence, as I was watching the assembly brawl on television, my younger daughter who is reviewing her GCSEs history, ahead of her exam next month, was discussing with her mother happenings in the German parliament, the Reichstag in the first half of the past century.
I found the juxtaposition of the two sending a chill up my spine. Threats such as those made by Fawad Chaudhry or his leader’s warning to his opposing parliamentarians and even their children about suffering the wrath of the people in such context assumed a totally scary and distinct dimension than that of a political remark.
Rule of Law has to be Protected in Pakistan
But anxiety at the remembrance of events that led up to the Holocaust and World War II soon ended. Pakistan, despite the fascistic impulses of some important leaders, remained a democracy which, notwithstanding its shortcomings, will triumph. The rule of law has to be protected and, I suspect, will be, whatever it takes.
The PTI will be well advised to do what it does best. Organise nonviolent protest demonstrations and carry its argument directly to the electorate. Peshawar and (and the makings of the) Karachi rallies have proved its support among the electorate and it should attempt and expand on it.
There are many million new voters. They are there for the taking and a former cricketing superhero will be best equipped to tap into those multitudes, many of whom won’t recall the PTI mismanagement, but may accept the ‘foreign conspiracy’ and ‘imported government’ rhetoric, regardless of its veracity.
The pressure being built up by the PTI’s public mobilisation is already taking a toll with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif vetoing a fuel price hike despite Miftah Ismail, the man who is slated to run the economy, saying the subsidy is costing the country around Rs2.5 billion a day according to recent news update.
One understands and appreciates the concern over the rising effect on inflation of any energy price increase as it translates into an even bigger burden on the underprivileged, untold millions of whom are struggling to put food on the table even once a day.
Government Needs Reforms for Poor
However, the government needs to link the need to give assistance to the poor with measures for deficit reduction in economic policy or Pakistan will fall further into the problem the subsidy produced in the first place.
It is an unenvious balancing act for the incoming government as it does not have the luxury of a full term to first roll out the tough measures and then in the latter part, after economic stabilisation, start delivering relief to the electorate.
pro-PTI Position-apolitical Status
Independent observers would claim that nobody forced it into government. It took advantage of the move from a pro-PTI position to what the army spokesman dubbed a ‘apolitical’ status that enabled it to dislodge Imran Khan from government. If it turns out it does not have a game plan, it will only have itself to blame.
On Saturday, former minister Fawad Chaudhry, who has served PTI, PPP and the Musharraf regimes with an unabashed devotion to remaining in power, and whose friends swear by his ‘liberal’ ideals, tweeted so and I quote (mistakes, omissions, capitals his, not mine):
“We are inches away from full fledge Civil unrest, @ImranKhan
According to latest news, PTI has shown utmost control very soon even he won’t be able to stop this highly angry mob and we ll see Country falling into a civil disturbance, imported leaders ll not be able to depart Country”