The nation witnessed unprecedented destruction of state property when angry people went on a rampage after the arrest of Imran Khan in Islamabad on May 9, 2023. While on the other side of the political spectrum, the ruling coalition parties demanded the resignation of the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) for favouring Khan.
Pakistan’s political elite is engaged in a fierce battle of survival. The clash of political parties is so toxic that no rules are respected. The military establishment has responded to the attacks by promising to bring perpetrators of violence to justice in military courts.
Khan has once again alleged that the violent incidents were the establishment’s planned conspiracy to prevent him from winning the next elections. PTI members are jumping ship and the Lahore High Court has struck down the Election Commission of Pakistan decision on the resignation of 72 PTI MNAs and has asked them to return to the assembly.
The country is in the eye of a raging political storm. The state institutions are at each other’s throats and there appears no end to bitter acrimony between the executive, judiciary and legislature. The Supreme Court (SC) decision to hold elections in Punjab on May 14 has been denied by the ruling coalition, and the CJP has become the target of a fierce attack. The National Assembly has passed a unanimous resolution to file a reference against the CJP for misconduct. In another clash of institutions, the recently formed judicial commission to probe the case of audio leaks has been challenged by the PTI in the Supreme Court.
The state institutions are being assaulted from all sides. The government has defied the Supreme Court ruling on holding elections in Punjab, and has refused to accept SC decisions for allegedly siding with the PTI leader. The clash of the government and judiciary is based on the supremacy of parliament. The principles of checks and balances and separation of powers of various institutions does not exist anymore. Imran Khan has been accusing the military leadership, especially Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir, of undermining his authority and trying to disqualify him. All such accusations and claims have been strongly denied by the Inter Service Public Relations.
Presently, Pakistan is a country of ugly and violent clashes between pillars of the state. The executive and parliament are daggers drawn with the Supreme Court and each institution is now accusing the other of overstepping its constitutional boundaries and acting in a dictatorial manner.
This clash of pillars of the state may permanently damage institutional harmony in the country. When the legitimacy of state institutions is questioned, the authority of the state comes into question and the entire edifice of governance is paralysed.
In this state of heightened political crisis, the economy is already on the verge of default. Questions are being asked whether elections will be held in October. Any attempt to delay elections beyond the constitutional timeframe will be a recipe for disaster, chaos and more political turmoil, resulting in economic meltdown and collapse of the state.
The need of the hour is to declare an immediate ceasefire between political opponents and an agreement on holding elections and its rules of conduct. The failure of talks between the PTI and the PDM has ruled out any such happening and the widening differences between the two is rendering a successful dialogue almost impossible. The country is caught in a vicious cycle of a political and economic crisis and the government cannot deliver effective governance because of the bitter conflict between the government and the opposition of PTI. It will not be possible to move forward without the consensus of all political players and the establishment to provide relief to people – or else face the consequences of collapse of the state.
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