Over the last few months the country has faced the onslaught of a serious political and economic crisis and this severe crisis reached a climax after the apex court ruled that the deputy speaker’s ruling in the Punjab Assembly was “to be without lawful authority.”
This decision of the Supreme Court declared Hamza Shehbaz’s election null and void and installed Pervez Elahi the nominee of the PTI and PMLQ leader as the Chief Minister of Punjab. It was hoped that this decision will help to end the political crisis in the country but on the contrary it has further exacerbated the ongoing crisis. Now there are two governments that do not recognise each other as legitimate and this tussle between the federal government and provincial powers will lead to further tensions and a definite head on collision. The loss of Punjab has been a huge set back to the coalition government and at the same time has plunged Pakistan into another phase of constitutional, political and economic crisis. The country and nation is now nearing a political melt down.
As Pakistan gears up to celebrate its 75th birthday it appears that most of our national institutions are on the verge of collapse and this decay is in need of urgent repairs before it is too late. National institutions in many developing countries face similar challenges but there is no country in the world that has faced the crumbling of various organs of state so rapidly and simultaneously.
Imran Khan has been demanding fresh elections immediately but will not ask his coalition partner Pervez Elahi to dissolve the Punjab assembly to force the federal government to do the same. The PTI will prefer to enjoy the control of the most important province and keep up the pressure on the federal government. The strategy is designed to undermine the federal government, chip away its authority and ultimately bring about collapse at the federal level. Parliament is totally dysfunctional because of the absence of any opposition that chose to resign their seats in order to delegitimise it.
Political dialogue or discourse has broken down and this is evident by the fact that political disputes are not being resolved by political means. Political institutions are paralysed and have no role to play in mediating political conflicts. The onus of responsibility to solve disputes has shifted to the superior judiciary with some damaging results. The judiciary has been subjected to criticism, abuse and even accused of taking sides.
The dangerous confrontation between the coalition government led by Shahbaz Sharif and the PTI is dragging on without any dialogue or negotiations and this does not auger well for any resolution of the crisis. Imran Khan has said that he is willing to talk to the TTP and the TLP but he will not talk to the combined opposition parties who are in control of the federal government.
The ruling coalition and the PTI both look towards the judiciary to arbitrate all political issues and this is now happening more frequently than ever before highlighting the breakdown of political process and burgeoning tensions in the country. The superior judiciary is now being dragged down into the political arena where the political gladiators are engaged in a life and death struggle.
Society and the entire country stands polarised. Since his removal from power Imran Khan has repeatedly called into question the integrity and impartiality of the superior judiciary and has mounted tremendous pressure to get favorable rulings from the apex court. Judiciary, the most important pillar of state today appears to be between a rock and a hard place, it is asked by both sides to resolve issues and then its decisions are criticised mercilessly by one side or the other. Both political rivals are now accusing each other of black mailing the judges and making their role controversial.
Even the superior judiciary is now undergoing some form of mysterious change and this was evident when the Chief Justice’s decision on the appointment of judges was questioned by Justice Qazi Faez Esa. In his written submission he opined that the Chief Justice was exercising powers not permitted by the constitution and taking unilateral decisions. A few days afterwards the judicial commission of Pakistan rejected all the five names put forward by the Chief Justice to be elevated as judges of the Supreme Court. Leading lawyers of the country also demanded that the principle of seniority should be respected the powers of the CJP to constitute a bench curtailed. Controversies, divisions and differences within the superior judiciary have severely eroded the public trust and belief in state institutions.
Another vital state institution facing the wrath of Imran Khan is the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Imran Khan is vociferous in attacking the ECP and demanding the resignation of the Chief Election Commissioner. The recent Financial Times report about foreign funds received by the PTI and Arif Naqvi’s role has added fuel to the raging fire of mystery surrounding the foreign funding saga of the PTI.
The ongoing political war between the government and the PTI is resulting in a severe economic crisis that the country cannot afford. The rupee is falling every day, foreign exchange reserves are dangerously low and the economic confidence is eroding rapidly. The danger looming on the horizon is a bitter confrontation between the Punjab Province and the federal government which could result in the breakdown of all major state institutions. These are grave and extraordinary times and the challenges being faced huge but all state institutions will have to work together to get the country out of this crisis.