To the hustings then, not to the courts
With the elections expected to be held within months, politicians would do well to prepare to take part in them instead of dragging each other to the courts. The gesture on the part of the PPP to ask NAB to postpone enquiry on a reference against the Sharif brothers was presumably aimed at bringing down the political temperature. A positive environment is needed to fulfil some of the constitutional requirements for holding fair and free elections. These include agreement between the government and opposition on a CEC and an independent caretaker set up. The reference in question was filed by Rehman Malik and related to money laundering during the PML(N)’s second tenure. What Zardari had asked the chairman NAB to do was not to withdraw the reference but to put it on hold till the elections were over.
Imran Khan sees collusion in the postponement of the enquiry. He has vowed to take the case against the Sharifs to the superior courts in case NAB delayed action on it. This shows that the tendency to drag opponents to the courts instead of dealing with them politically is not confined to the PML(N) alone. During the last four years, the PML(N) has lost no opportunity to file cases against the PPP leadership while many thought it should have made a more effective use of the floor of the house to expose the government. Once the cases had been filed, the practice was to issue statements of support for the court against the perceived transgression on the part of the accused party. By appealing to the courts to settle what were in fact political disputes, politicians yielded turf to the judiciary.
Now it is the turn of Imran Khan to act as PML(N)’s nemesis. However, at a time when those reading the tea leaves speak of conspiracies being hatched against the system, the PTI leader’s statement is likely to lead to accusations that he is helping in the upsetting of the apple cart at someone’s bidding. During the last two months excerpts from Raymond W Baker’s “Democracy’s Achilles Heel” published way back in 2005 have suddenly started appearing on the net. These include further charges of corruption against the Sharif brothers. While it is for the PML(N)to clarify their position, the timing of the accusations rouses suspicions. The government and opposition are preparing to evolve a consensus on the vital pre-election arrangements. A timely and peaceful transition of power does not suit the offstage players as it strengthens the institutions. Any unwise step at this moment has the potential to unleash a chain of events that could upset plans for timely elections. Any step of the sort has to be avoided.