Pakistan’s unbearable power struggle and political breakdown

Pakistan’s unbearable power struggle and political breakdown

Short Url

Pakistan’s politics is likely to enter a new phase on Wednesday, the day when former prime minister Imran Khan and his supporters across the country are scheduled to start a long march to Islamabad to mount pressure on the 11-party coalition government led by Mian Shehbaz Sharif to dissolve the assemblies and set a date for fresh elections, which in routine, should be held after August 2023.

All coalition partners want the prime minister to complete the remaining term of the assemblies, come what may.

The opinion in favor of fresh elections or against it has led to a power struggle between the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf on one side and all other parties on the other.

In fact, the state of polarization in Pakistan has changed after some four decades. Now, it is “either you are with Imran Khan or against him.” No other option.

The only parallel to this situation was witnessed in the late 70’s when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had overshadowed the country’s politics. All other parties were united against him on the platform of the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA). Just like the Pakistan Democratic Alliance is pitted against Imran Khan at present.

Interestingly, the PNA was led by senior leader Mutfi Mehmud while PDM is headed by his son Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

As a result of the ongoing power struggle, politics has become directionless, and nobody is in a position to predict what the future holds for the country of 220 million.

What is more unfortunate is the fact that the political system is not responding to the situation. Had the system been perfect, it would have offered an effective remedy. Now the country is sinking deeper and deeper by the day and nobody is in a position to stop the slide.

Political parties have no time to address the problems being faced by the people. There is little hope that the people will get any relief even in the next fiscal budget due to be announced on June 10.

Patriotism demands that all parties should sit together and find solutions.

Punjab, the country’s most populous province, is the worst victim of the rivalry between the parties. There is no governor in the province-- the constitutional head of a federating unit is missing.

Omer Sarfraz Cheema, who had been appointed by the PTI before its ouster as a result of a no-confidence motion, is not acceptable to the PML-N and has therefore been de-notified. In the absence of a governor, Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz is not appointing a cabinet, because there is no one to administer the ministers an oath to the cabinet ministers.

Prime Minister Shehbaz has nominated Baleeghur Rehman for the post. However, President Dr Arif Alvi has rejected his nomination. He insists that Omer Sarfraz Cheema is still the constitutional head of Punjab.

PML-N leaders say the president can withhold the prime minister’s advice only for 25 days and that on June 3, Mr Baleeghur Rehman will take over the job.

The situation is likely to get messier after June 3.

To get rid of Cheema, the Punjab government had closed the Governor House’s doors for him. However, before facing the humiliating situation, Cheema sent a reference against the LHC judge who had directed the NA speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to administer the oath to Hamza Shehbaz. Also, he wrote a letter to Army Chief General Qamar Jawed Bajwa, seeking his intervention to set right the political situation. The initiative by a politician to seek the army chief’s intervention is simply ridiculous. Equally ridiculous was a call given by former interior minister Sheikh Rasheed to the armed forces at the PTI’s Faisalabad rally.

The mockery of the Constitution doesn’t end here. Punjab Assembly Speaker – Pervaiz Elahi – who is supposed to act as governor in the absence of the governor – refused to assume the role because he himself was a candidate for chief minister against Hamza for the top office.

As a result of the ongoing power struggle, politics has become directionless, and nobody is in a position to predict what the future holds for the country of 220 million people. 

Ashraf Mumtaz

Under the constitution, if Pervaiz Elahi becomes acting governor, the deputy speaker (Dost Muhammad Mazari) becomes acting speaker. Interestingly, both the speaker and the deputy speaker are facing no trust motions.

Elahi has been adjourning the assembly session using his own powers. The PA session that was supposed to be held on April 28 was first adjourned to May 16 and then to May 30. He again changed the date of the session to May 22 – without issuing an agenda.

In mysterious circumstances, the PML-N legislators were not allowed to enter the assembly on May 22, and the speaker very skilfully got a no-trust motion against him disposed of.

A new motion has been moved against the speaker by a PML-N man.

At the federal level, the PML-N and PPP have little tolerance for President Arif Alvi. But they cannot remove him, because they don’t have the two-thirds majority of both houses of parliament required for the purpose.

The current system is not functioning. The ruling coalition, despite being strongly opposed to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman Justice Javed Iqbal, cannot bring in a successor, because for this purpose the prime minister and the opposition leader are required to hold consultations.

Now that PTI rebel Raja Riaz has been nominated as opposition leader in the National Assembly, the prime minister can sit with him and bring in a new NAB chairman.

The new opposition leader can also help the government emasculate the NAB chairman by taking away vital powers from him.

Among all this, the anti-government narrative to start by the PTI on May 25 will only add to the political temperature which is already very high – in fact, already unbearable.

- The writer is a senior and veteran journalist with a career spanning 40 years with major national and international newspapers.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view