The touted trump card turned out to be a violation of the constitution. All scruples dissipated. Ego reigned supreme. In the whole effort, two things were misused: first, a diplomatic cable; and second, Article 5 (describing loyalty to the State and obedience to the Constitution and law).
Before the ruling regime, the question was how to avoid defeat in the vote of no-confidence. The answer was to hoodwink both participants and bystanders. Political defeat was imminent, yet a face-saving was a requisite. A diplomatic cable was used to save face. The diplomatic cable became a new instrument to circumvent a constitutional need for holding a no-confidence motion. Pakistan is unique in the world that no one has so far considered the utility of a diplomatic cable better than using it for face-saving.
A foreign conspiracy can topple a sitting government; Pakistan has reached such a pass. A simple routine diplomatic cable was renamed as a letter, and then accentuated publicly as a threatening letter. What an act of audacity! All excuses were stacked around the letter, which was modified to serve the purpose. The forum of the National Security Committee was also used to dwell upon the foreign conspiracy. To fill the gap, a strong demarche was issued. In other words, directed against itself, a foreign conspiracy was hatched to be cashed in on by invoking Article 5, which saw its own first utility. The factor that has gone entrenched in Pakistan’s body politics is political turmoil. Look at Russia, which has swung into action to support Pakistan’s outgoing ruling regime. Nevertheless, the chaos tells the story of how easy it is to generate an excuse of foreign conspiracy to hide behind to sabotage the foreign policy. The nationalism card and the victim card are also in full swing to secure face-saving.
Interestingly, just to defeat the opposition, the patron-in-chief sacrificed the tenure of his own government. He knew that the next term belonged to the opposition parties. The ploy to dissolve assemblies and announce fresh elections was to avoid the no-confidence motion, which could have been humiliating for the government. The no-confidence motion, with all its constitutional requirements, was dumped. It was a self-inflicted wound. Instead of using the Constitution to protract its stay at the helm of affairs, the Constitution was misused to shorten the government’s own term. What a surprise oozed!
Wrapping up a surprise in an unconstitutional act has caused a ripple effect. The real victims are democracy, the rule of law and the Constitution. The manoeuvre has subverted democracy and impaired the confidence of people in democracy. In the post-2014 era, cursing traditional politics or the status quo remained a striking slogan to woo the voters, but the outcome remained short of serving the flaunted purpose: dividends of the change.
The post-2014 upheaval ruined the even tenor of Pakistan and stymied democratic progress. To the consternation of many, the ethnic (South Punjab) card and the religion card were played blatantly. After 2018, the rule forced many people to repine over the lost past, and regret their electoral decision.
The rule made people think about the benefits of traditional politics and about the tribulations of change politics. With that, traditional politicians, against whom the slogan of change had worked wonders, got emboldened. People harbour doubts about the wisdom of any flaunted change. They take umbrage against anyone who tries to sell the slogan of change of 2018 type. They want to go back to traditional politics.
The storm called the tsunami is over. It has foundered on the sea shore of reality. The mesmerized urban youth, especially in Punjab, has got disgruntled and disappointed. Promises outnumbered performances. Dreams were shattered. Slogans went hollow. Rules of the game were torn apart. Sportsman spirit vanished.
Instead of playing till the last ball, the ball was tampered and stumps went missing. In place of accepting political defeat, the whole country was plunged into a constitutional crisis. The prop offered by Dr Tahir-ul Qadri in 2014 is no more available. Nevertheless, in the end of the regime, many people see a relief hidden in the expiration of the foul language, lies and bravado at the national level. The post-2018 curse is dying of its own affliction.
The evolving situation is fraught with three main repercussions.
First, the faith of people in democracy and fair play has vanished. Through an unfair play, the ruling party denied the opposition the right of removing a government through a constitutional way by resorting to no-confidence motion. Next time, any opposition would prefer to resort to unlawful ways to topple the government under the dread that it can be outmaneuvered by any unconstitutional means afterwards. The water of politics has got muddied. Uncertainty has crept in. The question is this: what have the military and the higher judiciary learnt from the crisis? The making of a hybrid regime in the hope of running the country vicariously and with ensured exclusion of two mainstream political parties has failed to yield any fruit.
Second, Pakistan has been plunged into a severe economic crisis. Pakistan is heading for default. Seeing the political mayhem, the International Monetary Fund has suspended its facility and the same would be the behaviour of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. To avert an imminent financial crisis, Pakistan has to manage the inflow of $5 billion over the next few months. How would that be possible? The broader question is this: who would reverse the tide of economic meltdown? Before 2018, the military leadership was concerned about the economic condition. What does it say about the current situation? Interestingly, the military has declared itself neutral. What is otherwise the choice? Neutrality is an escape. The damage has been done. Pakistan witness economic slowdown.
Third, political confusion opens space for anti-State elements to do terrorist acts and execute sabotage activities to spread unrest in the country.