- The election case has become the focal point for both Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and Pakistan Democratic Movement—a 13 parties alliance which is currently sitting in the power—as the former wants early elections while the latter believes that it is not the suitable time for it.
Lahore: The political war between Pakistan’s leaders and their opponents is causing significant strain on the collective psyche of the country’s citizens, with many feeling exhausted by the high-stakes nature of the situation.
With the politicians blaming and accusing each other of corruption and misuse of power , the public is struggling with sky-rocketing inflation amid increase in the terrorists attacks. The latest terror attack left four army soldiers martyred on Balochistan and Iran border.
The blockage of roads for protests, school closures and internet shutdowns are other problems which citizens face on daily basis. The hunger and poverty have left people to suffer in the long queues at the flour distribution points, and over a dozen of people have lost their lives in these queues while waiting to get free bags of flour in different cities of the country.
The country’s top leadership is struggling to get billions of dollars in emergency financing from International Monetary Fund—a process which is still continuing—but the worsening economic situation cannot afford more wait.
The number of citizens leaving Pakistan has experienced a significant surge, as per the government’s statistics, with the figure rising almost three times in 2022 when compared to previous years.
In the given poor economic situation, the poor public is suffering from poverty and hunger while the politicians are fighting for the power.
The fight between the government and the opposition is not over yet as it has now been shifted from roads and streets to the premises of the country’s top court.
How it all started?
The current period of disorder can be traced back to April 2022, when Khan, a former cricket star who established the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI), was removed from office through a vote of no confidence. The grounds for his ouster were attributed to mismanaging the economy. Following his removal, Khan instigated his supporters to conduct street protests, where he accused the current government of collaborating with the military and the United States in a conspiracy to remove him from office. However, these allegations were denied by both parties.
Khan’s political campaign has been embroiled in a series of difficulties since he survived an assassination attempt during one of his rallies in November. Sharif’s government has pursued legal action against him, and as of March 21, Khan was confronted with six charges. Additionally, the central police office in Lahore reported that 84 cases had been filed against other PTI workers. Nonetheless, Khan’s party asserts that he alone has been subjected to 127 cases.
Last month, there were attempts to apprehend Khan from his abode in Lahore, which led to confrontations with the police and Khan’s followers camped outside. According to Khan, the government’s motive for attempting to arrest him was a “pretext for them to get out of (holding) elections,” although this claim was dismissed by information minister Mariyam Aurangzeb.
A few days later, more clashes occurred when the police arrived with bulldozers to evict the supporters from Khan’s residence, and again outside Islamabad High Court when the former leader ultimately complied with a court order to appear in court.
Interior minister Rana Sanaullah informed reporters that the police operation’s objective was to “clear no-go areas” and “apprehend offenders hiding inside.” Human Rights Watch accused the police of using “abusive measures” and requested all parties to exercise restraint.
The main issue:
The current situation concerning elections is uncertain. The general elections, initially, announced by the ECP for April 30, have now been scheduled for October this year. Imran Khan, however, wants early elections. He has blamed the ECP and the coalition government for delaying the elections, terming it blatant violation of the Constitution.
The government, however, believes that the country is facing many challenges including the security threats due to terrorists’ attack. The government says that economic situation is also not in the favour of early polls. Apparently, it wants in October while Imran Khan says that the government will never allow polls in October and will linger it on for their own motives, pointing that they do not want him to be free and taking part in the elections.
If Imran Khan is disqualified, he will not be able to hold any parliamentary office, participate in election campaigns, or lead his party. The Pakistan Election Commission had already disqualified him for making “false statements” regarding the sale of gifts received during his tenure in office, which is an offense under the country’s constitution. However, the courts are yet to set a date for the hearing that will establish the disqualification as law.
However, the reports suggest that the establishment may play role against Imran Khan to keep him away from the power again. But the other aspect is that former Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had said earlier this year before his retirement that the military would not interfere into the politics.
The matter of delay in elections has now come to the country’s top court and the government is trying to stack the legal cards against Imran Khan. PTI moved a plea to the Supreme Court of Pakistan and asked it to take action against the ECP and others for delaying elections.
The coalition government comprising 13 parties including the PML-N and the PPP also moved pleas to the top court and asked it allow them to be parties in the case.
As the legal battle continued, the benches of the Supreme Court hearing the case faced dissolution as some of the judges recused themselves from hearing the case. Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial reconstituted a three-member bench comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Muneeb Akhtar and started hearing of the case.
Many of the cabinet members and leaders of the political parties reached the Supreme Court to attend the hearing.
The top court asked the parties to deliberate on the election date and discuss code of conduct, observing that if they failed to do so then the judge of the apex court will play their constitutional role.
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Auranbzeb talked to the reporters outside the apex court and said that the government would not accept the decision of the three-member bench and demanded formation of full court for hearing of the plea for elections.
What is now?
The ongoing hostility at the highest levels of politics seems unlikely to abate and may, in fact, exacerbate the uncertainty for Pakistan’s long-suffering populace.
Khan is insistent that the current government wants him dead.
Last week, Interior Minister Sanaullah had remarked that the government formerly viewed Khan as a political adversary, but now perceived him as an “enemy.”
“(Khan) has brought the politics of this country to a point where only one can survive: either him or us. If we feel that our existence is being negated, we will take any measures necessary and will not consider what is democratic or undemocratic, what is right or wrong,” he said.
On other hand, Pakistan Democratic Movement—the coalition partners—has announced boycott of the Supreme Court three-member bench hearing the election delay case, and asked the top court to form a full court for hearing of the matter.
“We have lack of confidence in the Supreme Court bench hearing elections delay case,” said PDM in its declaration in decisive huddle at PML-N secretariat in Lahore on Saturday.
“Full court be formed and its decision will be acceptable to all the stakeholders,” it said as the fight continues.