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South Asia

Pakistan and the Game of Throne

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General elections of 2018 were one of the historical elections Pakistan had ever witnessed mainly because for the first time ever a third political party ousted the two party’s system out of the power corridor. PML N and PPP were replaced by the PTI and it emerged as the largest seat grabber in the polls. It was quite astonishing, for his critics, in many ways that Imran Khan after his struggle of 22 years was now going to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

From the day of this Government’s advent it was quite evident that the crown of Prime minister ship is going to be very exigent and taxing for Imran Khan. And it was quite vivid in the initial few months of the Government that it is going to be very difficult for them to fulfill the sky-high expectations that were pined upon them since the day of this Governments inception. The two humungous challenges that this incumbent Government of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) had to face were; economy and bad governance. They were welcomed with the crumbling economy that was at the verge of default with foreign reserves of two weeks in national exchequer and the extensive trail of bad governance.

PTI very persistently used the election rhetoric of not going to IMF but owing to the hanging sword of national default it was forced to do so and hence the first U-turn of the Government emerged on the national spectrum. This Government had to take this economy’s bull by horns and in order to do that certain decision had to be taken that became the cause of intense inflation in the country. It can be said that the Government peddled its reforms agenda in FBR, state bank and economic divisions and after that it had to face the resistance from the trader’s community. The results of these reforms are becoming fruitful for Government in the last few weeks of 2019 as World Bank appreciated our ease of doing business and furthermore the rating agency Moody increased Pakistan’s rating from negative to Stable. This is an achievement for the economic team, but real success would be to transform this stabilization into trickle down affect that would reach the common masses because they are yet to cherish the economic stability in their lives.

Apart from the economy another concern for the Imran Khan’s Government was good governance and this topic entails every department within in the jurisdiction of the executive and provinces. In these past 14 months, most of the criticism on the Government came due to lack of the governance model which Imran Khan promised before elections. The selection of Punjab’s Chief Minister was hugely contested within the party and mainstream media that how on Earth Imran Khan could hand over such an important province to the man who joined PTI two months before elections and clearly lacks the administrative capabilities that are required to run the biggest province of the country. Unfortunately, in the first year of its 5-year tenure, the performance of PTI in Punjab is below average. The agenda of Police reforms has been pushed under the carpet. There has been constant reshuffling in the bureaucracy of the Punjab but according o the critics there is the need of only one reshuffle on the post of CM but despite of all this Imran Khan is  still standing firm behind Usman Buzdar and I think is the only one who still thinks that he is going to become Wasim Akram Plus.

PTI’s stance on the accountability was the driving force of its political struggle over 22 years and now when Imran Khan is in the Government people want to see that looted money back that have been allegedly money laundered outside ofPakistan. Government has established an asset recovery unit and on 3rd December 2019, its first victory was witnessed when with the co operation of UK’s National Crime Agency Pakistan was able to get the 190 million pounds worth of the property in the Hyde Park. But opposition parties are continuously raising their reservations against National Accountability Beaurea and they say that Government is using state institutions against its opposition parties as according to them, Imran Khan holds political vendetta against them. Last month when Nawaz Sharifflew abroad on health grounds, many heads were rolled that Government is doing reconciliatory deal with the opposition by giving safe exit to NawazSharif. But Imran Khan has unequivocally stated that he would not enter in any kind of National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) with any opposition party as according to him if he does so he would become the biggest traitorof his nation. On the contrary the slogan of accountability is the only binding force for the PTI voters who have been standing by the Government despite the governance issues and economic recession. The compromise on accountability would change the political fate of this government and till now we can say that the rigid stance of Imran Khan on across the board accountability is evident of this fact that Prime Minister has fair realization of this scenario.

Another big challenge this government had to face was Azadi March of Maulana Fazal ur Rehman that created quite a stir in the Capital for over  a week when thousands of madrassah kids under the leadership of Maulana and other opposition parties demanded the resignation of Prime Minister on the grounds of rigged election but ironically for over a year these parties have been unable to produce one proof in election commission to substantiate their claims. The sit in was called off after few days but it gave rise to many conspiracy theories regarding “Maulana Araha Hai “and“Maulana Jaa Raha Hai”. This expeditionfurther aggravated the gap between Prime minister and the opposition that would eventually affect the legislative process in Parliament where bothare supposed to form laws and regulations.

On one front, Imran Khan emerged as the brightest and strongest and that was the foreign policy front of the Government. In the last 14 months Pakistan has emerged as one of the significant international players. In this period Pakistan has hosted high level foreign dignitaries and head of state. One day Imran khan is driving Muhammad Bin Salman from Noor Khan Airbase to PM house, receiving Malaysian, Emirati and Qatari head of state and on another day, he is hosting Duke and Duchess of Cambridge then flying to Iran to mediate between them and KSA. The international stature of the Prime minister pushed Pakistan into limelight. The role of Pakistan in Afghan peace process has increased its importance for United States of America as it was quite evident when Imran Khan visited USA earlier his year. After the revocation of Article 370, Pakistan has been very vocal about the Indian atrocious in Kashmir and Prime minister’s speech in UN General Assembly was a big hit where he single handedly exposed the RSS-Nazi nexus and forced the world to not forget Kashmir due to the unfortunate economic compulsions of the international politics. Overall Pakistan is also ahead in the domain of the Public diplomacy in the region after the opening of the Kartarpur corridor to the Sikhs pilgrims.

But despite of these achievements in foreign policy, the real challenges lieat home where there is the dire need to put our house in order first. There are still very big question marks over the competence of the cabinet ministers and lethargy of the beauracracy. At the end of the day it isthe general public that needs to be satisfied and till now PTI is still struggling with that. It can be said that it would be unfair to compare the performance of the three-timeruling parties with that of the Government that is one year old. The pragmatism would require to give this government time as still for many the current prime minister is the only  hope for the nation but on the other hand he also needs to realize that running a country is different from running a cricket team as there is the need of more patience in former. Imran khan still had to cross a long road ahead for which he needs to pull up his sleeves and buckle his shoes up to give the people of Pakistan what they deserve the most; A strong, prosperous and welfare state.

I am student of Mphil peace and conflict studies in NDU Islamabad striving to learn more every day.

South Asia

“Haqeeqi Azaadi” or “Political Invasion”?

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You call it a “Long March” or an “Azaadi March” or a “Haqeeqi Azaadi March” and lastly according to some people “Political invasion of the capital”; whatever attempt it may be, the impact of this “Long March” will not be “Short” at all. Seems like history is repeating. Yesterday, it was PTI, later it was TLP, then JUIF, PDM & now again PTI. This reminds us about a Supreme Court’s historic judgment on Faizabad Sit in by Supreme Court, which is quite relevant again in these crucial times. The historic judgment of Supreme Court on Suo moto quotes that “The leaders of the dharna intimidated, hurled threats, abused, provoked and promoted hatred. The media provided unabated coverage. Inflammatory speeches were delivered by irresponsible politicians. Some unscrupulous talk-show hosts incited and provoked citizens.” Isn’t the situation once again similar? Doesn’t it seem like history is repeating? Few analysts consider it to be a worst kind of situation.

Supreme Court writes in its judgment that “the freedom of speech and expression and of the press are fundamental right. However, these rights cannot be used to denigrate or undermine the glory of Islam, security or defence of Pakistan, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, or commission of or incitement to an offence.  He categorically mentions that “PEMRA Ordinance mirrors the restrictions as set out in Article 19 of the Constitution and further prohibits broadcasts which are, “likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or is likely to disturb public peace and tranquility.” So, Supreme Court has already given clear instructions that if some event is likely to disrupt peace and tranquility, media broadcasts can be prohibited.

Insiders say that we are in a dead end and this is the most crucial time of history for Pakistan, especially when the economic fate has to be decided by IMF on 25th May when Imran khan marches on Islamabad. So let’s playout the possible upcoming scenarios which political stakeholders may have to consider;

  1. Marching towards Islamabad with huge crowds is one thing but forcing a government to dissolve assemblies with this crowd is another thing. Imran Khan very well knows this is a do or die situation for his political career as well. He knows his March will only succeed if he can force an early election.
  2. Bringing larger mobs to Islamabad will only be fruitful if there is some kind of disruption by the present government or by the PTI itself. IK knows that a prolonged sit in without happenings in the red zone won’t be impactful.
  3. PTI leaders have been repeatedly convincing people including government employees, Army officers and police to bring their families in their Haqeeqi Azaadi March. The question which arises is that “Why IK doesn’t bring own family members to join the “Jihad” or “Haqeeqi Azaadi”?
  4. IMF has to take crucial decision on Pakistan’s economic fate. Without an IMF Package, a Srilanka type scenario may arise. The decision will come on the same date as of long march, on 25th May. This is a do or die situation for Pakistan’s economy. So the leaders of this March should definitely come with a futuristic economic plan and tell the masses how will they get rid of this dire economic situation.
  5. While Srinagar Highway will be full of Marchers led by the so-called Ambassador of Kashmir, a big decision is expected to come from Srinagar about Yasin Malik. Unfortunately, it is expected that his sentencing maybe announced on 25th May as well.

The government also has limited options. They are arresting leaders of PTI. They are raiding houses in their own panic mode which will further incite the situation. The removal of fuel subsidiary has become inevitable and when it happens it will be the most unpopular decision. Rising, Inflation will cut purchasing power. Finalization of IMF program has brought them to a dead end.

The dread is in the air. 25th May is around the corner. It is Crucial. It is Do or Die for Pakistan. We must fear!!

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South Asia

When Politics turns Personal; The Toxic Allegations & Accusations become a Norm

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Image source: timeofpakistan.com

There is something happening beneath this political turmoil which is NOT looking good!!

Whenever Political landscape turns into a Personal battleground, defeats become unacceptable. These past few days are a perfect case study to see that how Political elite in Pakistan has done whatever it took it to stay in power. In this power grab scenario, there could be numerous losses including the integrity of institutions. We have unfortunately entered into a very dangerous phase, where some political stakeholders have put all stakes at risk, where they have stretched their limits beyond a constitutional limit, all to gather mass support, all to stay in power and avoid defeat. Is it a threat of losing power? Is it a double game? Is it a practical hybrid war we are fighting?  Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be good. All is at stake, all is at risk and all is toxic.

As if the political temperature was not noxious enough, Shireen Mazari Saga took place. Once again, accusations, allegations and assumptions started pouring in against the state institutions. Soon after her arrest, her daughter, a lawyer herself Imaan Zainab Mazari alleged that her mother was beaten by male police officers during the arrest. But few minutes later, a video clip surfaced that showed clearly that her mother was arrested by Female Police officers in broad daylight and as per the law. Lie number 1 of the daughter stood exposed. Within moments, without any cogent evidence the lady, known for many controversies in the past targeted state institution for such an act, although the anti-corruption already had taken responsibility of her arrest.

Abuse of power can never be tolerated, regardless of who it targets or from where it emanates. This mantra is true and everyone has an equal belief on it but let’s take a deep dive to see that how politics turned dirty in this case, how blame game took place and how this entire episode was used as a tool to churn propaganda against Army leadership and Armed Forces.

1. The anti-corruption police had arrested Shireen Mazari and she herself accepted that Prime Minister and Interior minister were responsible for my arrest. But the mother daughter nexus brazenly started blaming institutions without any solid evidence. Shouldn’t there be an inquiry on this too?

2. PTI was always of the opinion that why courts were opened mid night to send IK packing while he wasn’t listening to anyone however when same court gave a verdict in favor of PTI ex minister, late night, it was celebrated and much appreciated by Shireen Mazari & IK who have been spearheading anti judicial tirade until recently. Isn’t it blatant hypocrisy? Judicial inquiry has been ordered by the Court which is a positive sign, but the serious allegations which Mazari nexus have raised must also be inquired during this newly formed judicial inquiry. Should the Judiciary not question them on hurling these baseless allegations?

3. The present government, whose Police itself arrested Shireen Mazari disowned this attempt. Attorney General displayed his ignorance about the matter in front of the court. So, somehow the government created this impression in the public eye that they are not to be blamed for the arrest of Shireen Mazari. Was it a double game? Or a deliberate effort to discredit institutions?

Pakistan is already facing serious economic downfall, political uncertainty and civil strife. PTI has also announced Long March to Islamabad on 25th May which is likely to further exacerbate already fragile political and economic instability. It has become quite evident now for achieving petty political ends, our political elite has no serious resolve to address the crisis confronting the country. Country is being deliberately pushed to limits of economic and political dead end. The political immaturity and lack of vision to handle the crisis situation is also hurting the repute of institutions amidst internal political wrangling. If political leadership doesn’t come to grips of the critical situation prevailing which is likely to aggravate further in coming days, people of Pakistan in particular and the country in general are likely to suffer unprecedented damage. Political elite must put its acts together and steer the country out of prevalent political and economic crisis by showing sagacity and political wisdom until it’s too late.

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South Asia

Accusations to Acknowledgement: The Battle of Article 63 A

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The weather is heating up. As the May is ending, Political temperatures are soaring. The fate regarding the country’s political and economic stability will be measured in the upcoming days. Earlier, PDM built momentum by taking on institutions. Maryam Nawaz raised the temperature by targeting key personalities and institutions. Allegations were bursting against the institutions in all dimensions. Today, we witness reversal of roles. Accusations have been outflowing in every Jalsa by PTI. But now suddenly, the “accusations” turned into “acknowledgment”. “Complaints” started transforming into “Compliments”. Is it the change of narrative? Is it another U-turn? Or is it the restoration of confidence in the institutions? Where will this chaos end?

The Supreme Court’s “decision” or as they say “opinion” or “binding” on Article 63 A has raised some pertinent questions on the status of CM Punjab election? In the interpretation of Article 63 A of the constitution, the Supreme court categorically condemns the practice of horse trading by calling it “a cancer afflicting the body politic”. Supreme Court in its decision of 3-2 rejected the vote count of these dissident members against the party directives. So the future of the Chief Executive of Punjab is now under threat because it is contrary to what happened in National Assembly. The political instability continues and the situation is messy.

In light of this verdict, Hamza has a support of 172 MPAs in Punjab assembly but at the same time, he also has 4 dissenting members which draws the figure to 168. Now further moving ahead, PTI and alliance also has a collective figure of 168 votes minus 21 dissenting members. The situation here in Punjab is way too complex now. A support of 186 members is required for a clear majority in Punjab assembly to formulate a government. This current Punjab government can either fall through a governor led vote of no confidence or a Supreme court order. The governor even has a right to dissolve the assembly with his discretionary powers according to Article 112 (2) of the constitution. Supreme Court has already made its decision on cross voting against Party fiat.  Now legal experts are interpreting the decision in their own dictionaries. What will happen in Punjab? What will happen on the federal level? Will there be an election call? If so, what will be the care taker setup? Will there be a fresh mandate? Who will make the hard economic decisions?  Lot needs to be answered in these crucial times.

From “My judges disappointed me” to “Thankyou Supreme Court”, a lot has happened and a lot is ready to take place. Islamabad is full of gossips, interpretations, whispers and predictions these days. There is something seething under this political turmoil. The Red zone is under a lot of pressure whether politically or economically. Pre – Elections, Elections and then Post elections, we have a lot of consequences of a lot of hard decisions. But hard decisions need to be taken. Question is who is ready to make the hard choices? Be Afraid!!

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