Political quagmire By Malik Muhammad Ashraf

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With both the government and the opposition alliance sticking to their guns, the country seems to be heading towards chaos and political instability which it cannot afford in view of the grave challenges it is confronted with. The situation needs to be defused by politicians on either side of the aisle. In settling political issues, engagement is the name of the game. Street agitations and disruptive antics invariably lead to chaos and disorder, harming the cause that the proponents of such actions claim to serve. The history of agitations in this country proves it beyond any iota of doubt. The country surely needs a break from the vicious circle of political bedlam and the irresistible propensity to pull down an elected government before its mandated tenure.

The permeating situation, therefore, needs an evaluation of the legitimacy or otherwise of the objectives of the PDM on which its movement against the government is premised. The PDM contends that the present government lacks legitimacy as it was installed through rigged elections. Their second claim is that the process of accountability was nothing but a witch-hunt against the political opponents and the third one is that the government has made the lives of the people miserable due to its failure to control inflation and its inability to address the woes afflicting the economy. The last and much hyped is that they are striving for the restoration of true democracy in the country.

As far as rigging in general elections 2018 is concerned, most international observers and watchdogs within the country have not pointed out any wrongdoing in the elections to the extent the opposition parties are claiming. The very fact that the opposition parties have made it a cause for challenging the legitimacy of the incumbent government after two-and-a-half years, without exhausting the constitutional and legal avenues available to have the complaints about the alleged electoral fraud evaluated and judged, makes it abundantly clear that they actually had no proof or credible evidence available to approach the constitutional bodies including ECP immediately after the election results were announced. It exposes the hollowness of their claims.

Accountability is one of the pivotal pillars of democracy. A political leader or a party claiming democratic credentials would never feel shy of clearing their position through the judicial process. They would not try to sabotage the process of accountability through political agitation designed to put pressure on the government to abandon it.

The scams in regards to money laundering, fake bank accounts and Benami properties held by the politicians who have been ruling the country in the past and their associates, are mind boggling. The government would be failing in its duty if it does not initiate processes to bring to the book the people who took this nation for a ride. The opposition parties and its leaders would be well advised to adopt legal courses to prove their innocence. The process of accountability also provides them the chance to clear their names once and for all.

Democracy can be best served and strengthened through following universally-established democratic norms. The government has been mandated to rule the country for five years and it must be allowed to complete its tenure. Democracy is about letting the people make their judgment at the end of the tenure of a sitting government. If the government fails to come up to the expectations of the people, they would give their verdict in the ensuing elections. Alleged poor performance of a government does not by any democratic norm give the opposition the excuse to dislodge it through street agitation. It is a negation of democracy in view of the fact that there are other legal options available to express lack of confidence in the government.

The opposition parties must realise that maintaining peace and tranquillity in the country is also their national obligation. Creating political crisis and chaos in the country is not condonable legally, morally and politically. The situation demands that they should abandon their agitation and engage the government in a dialogue for reforming the system to plug the avenues of rigging and political engineering which becomes a rhetoric after every general election. The government has repeatedly expressed its willingness for a dialogue except on the issue of accountability.

The Chairman of PDM, Maulana Fazlur Rehman has declared the movement against the government as ‘Jihad’. Probably he thinks that the people of Pakistan can be befooled through such declarations. The literal meaning of Jihad is to strive or make a determined effort. In the Islamic context, it means fighting in the way of God or an evil which vitiates against tenets of Islam. None of the objectives of their coming together really call for a jihad, especially seeking reprieve against the alleged criminal acts.

The PDM is almost through its schedule of public rallies and protestations. However, in spite of the fact that it is a conglomeration of eleven political parties, including two major political forces the PML (N) and PPP, it has failed to attract expected attendance in them. Those who attended were die-hard supporters of the parties and not the people from cross sections of the society. It constitutes a rebuke to them and exhibits lack of confidence of the masses in the legitimacy of their cause as well as mistrust in their democratic credentials.

The opposition therefore needs serious rethinking, particularly by PML (N) and PPP which should refuse to follow the dictates of Maulana to stoke the movement into a religious issue with frightful consequences. They must use the forum of the parliament to resolve the national issues like the electoral reforms and systemic changes in governance which is their prime duty. That is the way the country can be winched out of the political quagmire it has stuck into. We have a constitution and institutions to exercise the will of the people. Any deviation from that course loses moral, political and constitutional justification.