After lengthy deliberations, the Speaker of the National Assembly Asad Qaiser has finally summoned the session of the House on 25th of March. This date is three days later than what the constitution has mandated, thus proving a loyalty to the ruling clique which calls into question his own impartiality is in serious doubt. This action of the Speaker is loaded with dangers and pitfalls – and leads to serious concerns about the future of democracy in the country. The ruling party PTI and the combined opposition parties have both announced shows of power at the famous D- Chowk in Islamabad on the eve of the vote on the no confidence. This decision by the government and the opposition may turn into the final battle or the dreaded Armageddon to wrap up the democratic system from the country and a return to a military dictatorship. The Prime Minister has announced the gathering of “a million” of his supporters in front of the National Assembly and the PDM has also issued a call to their supporters to march on the capital on the same dates – so the period from the 24th to the 27th of March is being seen as the final showdown between the two opposing political big shots. For its part, the PTI is portraying this day as the biblical Armageddon or the contest between the forces of good and evil. Imran Khan and his legal team are now engaged in legal summersaults and attempts to trigger debates regarding constitutional procedures, and this looks like the drowning man catching at the proverbial straw. The PTI government just cannot avoid the vote of no confidence, and they can only retain power if the opposition fails to show a strength of 172 in the assembly or if the opposition withdraws the motion. The Speaker of the Assembly appears to be more loyal to the throne than the king himself and he may try to delay the process and push the date forward. Such tactics by the government will result in the case ending up in the court of law, but the voting has to take place: all other tactics are just ploys to delay the inevitable.
History repeats itself and what we are witnessing is a repeat of our own political history. Since the dawn of independence, the oft-repeated cliché has been heard again and again Pakistan is in danger or we are at a crossroads and the country has managed to muddle through one crisis after another – all man-made and a few natural. It has also been said that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. This new political drama is ample proof that we have not learnt anything from our past and we are perpetually in a state of crisis.
The drama unfolding today appears to be scripted by the same undemocratic hands with different characters, but these experiments have proved very expensive – with the cost being borne by the common people of Pakistan. It is an open secret that the powers behind the throne in Pakistan have always been some murky forces or the mysterious “They” who call the shots. The Powers That Be are always in need of an elected political leader who would dance to their tune. The idea of Imran Khan was to do away with the traditional ruling parties like the PPP and the PML-N who were perceived to be “totally corrupt” and “incapable of safeguarding our national interests.” With Imran Khan in the driving seat, it was presumed that he would initiate reforms and policies to clean up the system and guide the nation to progress and prosperity.
The facilitators and backers of Imran Khan were shocked to realise that their favorite lackey and his team had failed miserably to do any homework before getting into the driving seat. It is quite clear by now that his administration had no roadmap to execute their election manifesto or to deliver on their campaign promises. Immediately after taking office, the Imran Khan regime received a bailout package from Saudi Arabia and the UAE amounting to US $ 12 billion, and yet they failed to show any positive trends in the economy. Prices spiraled upwards, unemployment increased by leaps and bounds, poverty remained unchecked and attempts were made to throttle the media and avoid any criticism. In no time it was abundantly clear that this regime is incompetent and does not have the ability to deliver.
At this stage, some diehard supporters and facilitators started having second thoughts about their choice and it was seen that there was a rush to abandon the sinking ship of the PTI.
The critical turning point in our politics is when the elected Prime Minister tries to assert his authority and claim his right to call the shots as prescribed in the constitution. Irrespective of the person in the PM’s seat, the collision between the PM and the centres of power eventually happens. We have seen that with Z.A. Bhutto, Muhammad Khan Khan Junejo, Zafar Ullah Jamali, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
The game is slightly different today. The man in charge of the civilian setup is the charismatic cricket hero called Imran Khan. He has some grand delusions about himself and his mission in life. He is a staunch believer in his divine mission and all his previous actions have proved that he will go down fighting, even at the cost of destroying the democratic setup. He is stubborn to the core – for instance, he has refused to change the Chief Minister of Punjab despite great pressure from his close advisors to appoint a more suitable person to manage the most politically important province of Punjab. He has refused to bow before pressures, and another example of his dogged stubbornness is the case of the appointment of the new chief of the ISI.
In light of our history, the present goings-on are nothing new. Eventually, the myth promoted by the PTI of civilian and military leaders being on the same page has ended. And the next few days will result in a final showdown.