In an unusually candid speech in the National Assembly on Monday, the PML(N)’s Khwaja Asif termed the conditions in the region alarming and warned that if the situation worsened in Afghanistan it would become difficult for Pakistan to face it as it had numerous fault lines on the basis of religion, ethnicity, economic disparity, and provincial differences. He hinted at the military establishment being also aware of the situation.
According to Kh Asif there was now a recognition that mistakes had been committed by all governments, both civil and military. He admitted that politicians themselves had been approaching the establishment in the past to seek its intervention for personal or party gains. He enlarged the concept of establishment by including in it top people in the military, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, and the media. Instead of settling their differences in Parliament, politicians invited the establishment to interfere and adjudicate, thus surrendering their turf.
Kh Asif admitted that he was also a part of acrimony in the 1990s. Later, the PPP and the PML(N) realized that their no-holds-barred fights took toll of the system and agreed to sign the Charter of Democracy. This ensured a peaceful transfer of power during the so-called decade of democracy. According to Khwaja Asif, what was needed to deal with the fall out of the worsening regional situation was a united national response. To start with, there was a need to strengthen the Parliament as the most powerful institution. The recent rowdy scenes in the National Assembly were a collective failure of the politicians. He called upon the Speaker to play a crucial role in restoring the dignity of the National Assembly.
While he stressed the need for fair and free elections that correctly reflected the voters’ aspirations, citing it as the true meaning pf “vote ko izzat do”, the ideal remains illusory as political parties have not been able to forge a consensus on the reforms required to safeguard against electoral malpractices. Last month, despite the opposition boycotting the session, the government succeeded in passing 21 laws, including laws on electoral reform, by the lower House of Parliament.
Kh Asif’s remarks make sense and he was heard in silence. However with deep rooted suspicions still prevailing between the PMLN, PPP and PTI one is not sure if these would be taken seriously by the other two parties.