Ruckus in twin cities: What will be the outcome?

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Two major developments on Thursday, have triggered a new debate about the possible outcome of the present political crisis. The first is linked to the government’s decision to stop Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s November 2, ‘million march’. And the second is an important meeting of Prime Minister’s ‘A’ team with the army chief General Raheel Sharif.

Now, will the present political crisis end through political means, legal discourse or extra constitutional way? These are the three possible options. But what happened in the last 24 hours, clearly indicated that the government has decided not to allow Islamabad’s lock down. However the tactics they have used remind us of the old politics of the 90s, between PML-N and PPP. This time it is PML-N and PTI.

It is also a test for PTI’s capacity of political agitation. Will PTI be able to capitalize this situation and convert it into a mass movement? One has to wait and see how much Imran and his party will be able to challenge PML-N on the street.

On Friday, till the writing of this piece there have been reports of street fight in Rawalpindi where Imran and Sheikh Rasheed would be leading the rally.

What was required from the Sharifs was the policy of ‘calm down,’ instead, it followed the policy of ‘crackdown or knockdown’, making Imran Khan emerge as a ‘hero’ from his otherwise naive political approach of ‘lock-down’ Islamabad.

Pakistan’s misfortune has been its weak political system due to which civilian governments struggle in completing its term, both, because of bad governance, corruption, but also because it often loses its patience against opponents.

PM, Sharif should have learnt few lesson from his predecessor, Asif Ali Zardari, who despite his most ‘negative image and perception,’ become the only successful civilian ruler to complete full term with his politics of tolerance and ‘calmness.’

After initial gains following Islamabad High Court’s ‘interim order,’ which had put PTI on the back foot, government lost the gain through its overreaction and arrest of over 200 workers from the convention. This followed by all kind of typical tactic of administrative harassment, which reminded one of the days of Sharif-Benazir and Musharraf-Sharif tussle.

In this charged political atmosphere the meeting of PM’s ‘A’ team, comprising Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, with the army chief General Raheel Sharif has triggered new debate in the media.

No one knows as to what actually transpired in the all important meeting but it attached significance in the context of the rising political developments and continued civil-military tension particularly after ‘DAWN leak.’

Therefore, the outcome of the meeting can have far reaching consequences but the government certainly on the back foot looked in a much weaker position today, than it was  about a month back.

Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif before leaving for a foreign trip on Tuesday may take three major decisions: the appointment of the new army chief or extension to General Raheel Sharif, how to counter his political rival Imran Khan’s Islamabad’s lock down call, and what position government would take in the Supreme Court and Election Commission of Pakistan.

This writer has learnt from a reliable source that some ‘heads may roll’ as a result of DAWN’s probe and that too before the announcement of the new chief. The presence of DG ISI Lt. General Rizwan Akhtar in the meeting also indicate that the premier intelligence chief might have shared its probe on DAWN leak with top PM’s team.

PM’s ‘A’ team in the past also consulted Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif in matters related to appointment of the army chief. This team has made the two other appointments too, in the case of General Raheel Shareef and former chief Retd. General Pervez Musharraf.

Civil-military relationship had improved before DAWN’s correspondent Cyril Almeida’s biggest exclusive of 2016 put things back to square one, and that too two months before General Raheel’s scheduled retirement on November 29th.

Army’s top brass considered the leak as not only a major security lapse but also breach of trust on national security.

On the legal front the government has many options both in the petition before the Election Commission of Pakistan which will come up for hearing on November 2 and the important hearing of the Supreme Court on November 1.

SC, on Friday, has constituted a larger bench for November 1, and all eyes are on this most important case headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Anwar Jamali.

The big question is about the possible final outcome of this crisis. Will it be within the framework of the Constitution or through Supreme Court’s final verdict or through any ‘extra constitutional’ way, which means, ‘ third party’ intervention.

Officials in the government indicate that the PM would accept the verdict of the SC but under no circumstance would resign. He will also not follow the option of 1993 General Waheed Kakar’s formula. It is not applicable today as only the prime minister has to resign unlike in 1993 when former President Ghulam Ishaq Khan also had to resign. Or can it be different this time?

Political parties are also divided on this issue. Most of them are against any extra constitutional option under any circumstances.

Constitution 1973 has clearly define how an elected Prime Minister could be removed. He can resign or call for early elections through vote of no confidence. The other way is through legal discourse.

Martial Law is not the option nor it should be, both because of the Supreme Court verdict in Judges case or even because of the prevailing situation at our Eastern and Western borders.

The ball is in the prime minister’s court and one has to wait and see whether he will hit for a ‘six’ or bowled hit wicket.

The possible outcome of this crisis will most likely be legal and constitutional as the military hierarchy is not considering any other option for different reasons. But then this Pakistan.