What happened in the Punjab Assembly was not unexpected. The viral videos made one’s head hang in shame. Democracy died by a thousand cuts on April 16, 2022.
Pervaiz Elahi turned out to be the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. With only 10 seats in the Punjab Assembly, his dream to become the king was certain to turn sour. He dug his own political grave when on his son’s prodding; he refused to strike a deal with the PML-N. Rather, he struck a Faustian bargain with the PTI.
With the PTI’s departure from the federation, its defeat in Punjab was a foregone conclusion. When Punjab Assembly’s Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari, told the press that he would go ahead with the chief minister’s election and would not become a pawn in the PTI’s great chess game, a spanner was thrown in the works. The assembly was prorogued to April 16, and sealed with barbed wires in the name of interior decoration. It was challenged before the Lahore High Court, which ordered not to cause any impediment to the deputy speaker’s role to conduct the election for chief minister.
However, on April 16, Chaudhrys of Gujrat in concert with the PTI’s members of the assembly came up with a different game plan. Colourful lotas made their way into the assembly to disgrace defectors, particularly the deputy speaker. They were waved and thrown at him. Slogans were raised. The Punjab Assembly portrayed a picture of a wrestling match of WWE, where Pervaiz Elahi was found directing goons to thrash the deputy speaker and then patting them on their backs with a thumbs-up sign.
The PTI is turning into a far-right party emblematic of fascism, parochialism, and extremism. It feeds its supporters on empty rhetoric, lofty slogans and conspiracy theories. It can’t put up with dissent of any kind.
Shamefully, it was not just the deputy speaker that was being kicked, slapped and maltreated, but the democracy was at the receiving end of the PTI’s and PML-Q’s righteous indignation.
For the first time in the Punjab Assembly’s history, police in plain clothes, as well as the anti-riot police, were called in to prevent the troublemakers from causing further trouble. It was a sorry state of affairs. The police were not putting up resistance as female assembly members were thrashing them.
Musharraf’s strongman, Pervaiz Elahi’s image stood shattered. He exposed himself to the core.
The PML-N resorted to violence to settle scores. In the brawl that broke out between the PTI and PML-N assembly members, Pervaiz Elahi fractured his arm.
To his credit, Dost Muhammad Mazari stood his ground, and lived up to his role as the acting speaker. He was acting on the court’s order, in pursuance of Articles 53(3) and 130 of the constitution. Pervaiz Elahi had only curses to resort to when his prospects to become the CM were ruined by Hamza Shahbaz.
The PTI is turning into a far-right party emblematic of fascism, parochialism, and extremism. It feeds its supporters on empty rhetoric, lofty slogans and conspiracy theories. It can’t put up with dissent of any kind. The PTI supporters are eagerly buying into the conspiracy theory flaunted as the core reason for Khan’s fall from power. They are quick to label others as patwaris or traitors.
If Hamza is interested in delivering, he needs to get out of his office and visit underdeveloped areas of Punjab. Relying on bureaucracy will not yield results. He must try to decentralize powers, and revive the local government system.
The PTI’s hatred towards its rival political parties is sowing seeds of further polarisation of the society. The anti-army and the anti-judiciary rhetoric ramped up by the PTI is pushing the country into a swamp of civil unrest and has the potential to rip apart the whole societal fabric. Surprisingly, Khan criticizes the judiciary for opening its gates at night, in the same breath he maintains that he is the only politician to have been declared as Sadiq and Ameen by the judiciary. What Imran Khan seeks to establish in Pakistan is a tyrannical and fascist order, the idea of which strikes at the root of democracy, and falls foul of article 2-A of the constitution, which states: “We… the people of Pakistan… dedicated to the preservation of democracy achieved by the unremitting struggle of the people against oppression and tyranny… Do hereby, through our representatives… give ourselves this constitution”.
With Hamza Shehbaz as CM Punjab and Shehbaz Sharif as PM, the father-son duo will draw considerable flak if they don’t deliver on their promises soon. It will not be smooth sailing with the PTI as their opponents.
Hamza Shehbaz will do well not to take a page out of his father’s playbook. As CM Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif focused on the development of Lahore, ignoring the rest of the province. The credit for Metro Bus, Metro Train, underpasses and overhead bridges goes to Shehbaz. Hamza must reach out to rest of Punjab, South Punjab in particular.
Away from Lahore, roads are not travel-worthy; public health facilities are inadequate and education system is in doldrums. If Hamza is interested in delivering, he needs to get out of his office and visit underdeveloped areas of Punjab. Relying on bureaucracy will not yield results. He must try to decentralize powers, and revive the local government system.
The big question is, will he act?
The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He tweets @zaeem8825. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org