Triumph for supremacy of Pakistan's constitution
The supreme court verdict on the issue of the dissolution of the National Assembly of Pakistan by the president is a historic occasion in a country where the constitution has been repeatedly subverted either by civilian chief executives or military rulers. It is indeed a watershed moment for the country’s troubled and fragile democracy.
In any country that calls itself a democracy, when the Prime Minister loses the support of the majority he has to quit. There are simply no exceptions. The point is not whether the loss of majority support is attributable to pressure, coercion or blackmail. Any such pressure does not and cannot justify the winding up of parliament. In this case, there was no such pressure. There were members of the ruling PTI who felt disgusted with the way the prime minister and his close coterie of ministers had chosen to operate once in power. Not only that, Khan as head of government only focused on a policy of vendetta against political rivals who might pose any threat to his leadership. This was the overriding principle that guided his approach to governance. Ignoring the many problems and challenges the country confronts, he decided to spend his energy, time and resources on an endless tirade against his opponents. Issues like grinding poverty, impending water shortages, the damaging effects of climate change, falling educational standards, a rising trade gap, the soaring cost of living and unemployment were disregarded because chasing opponents was deemed more important.
Having said that, the fact remains that PTI still has mass support in many parts of the country. Khan salvaged his reputation by focusing on issues that are relevant to millions of people. Wasting time on accusations of all sorts against opponents has taken attention away from the daunting issues the country is faced with. It was in Khan’s tenure that India had the courage to destroy the identity of Kashmir as a distinct entity. It was in his tenure that the dollar reached its peak vis-à-vis the rupee putting an enormous burden on Pakistan’s ability to repay its loans. It was in his tenure that Pakistan received an unprecedented amount of foreign loans– to be repaid by future governments.
The supreme court ruling has created a new environment of hope across the country.
It appeared the PTI government was just not keen on addressing growing challenges on multiple fronts.
The accumulated anger of PTI leaders and the growing disenchantment with the rapidly deteriorating economic situation has created acute frustration. Pakistan is on the brink of potential chaos that could lead to more anger and more despondency. Before dangerous thresholds are crossed, there is an urgent need for a dispassionate reappraisal of approach and policy.
The new administration will have to take cognizance of these mounting challenges and the discontent that now prevails. The supreme court ruling has created a new environment of hope across the country. In this climate of optimism, the alternate leadership must focus on real issues rather than wasting time and energy on launching a tirade against the previous government.
But alongside this, it is important to make a reference to the electorate as soon as conditions permit. Introducing electoral reforms and holding transparent elections is an important responsibility that cannot be ignored any longer. The sooner the country holds another free and fair election, the better. Even from a partisan point of view, a delay in holding elections will hurt the opposition. And because economic problems are not going to vanish quickly, people will blame the opposition if they do not hold that early election.
The next few weeks will be critical for the stability and future of the nuclear armed country of 220 million people.
- Rustam Shah Mohmand is a specialist of Afghanistan and Central Asian Affairs. He has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan and also held position of Chief Commissioner Refugees for a decade.