Political crisis deepens

Fixation of responsibility

By bringing the political battles into our bedrooms, social media has made it much difficult for politicians and other heads of the key institutes to speak lies and to hide information.

Pakistan’s political crisis deepened after the ouster of the former Prime Minister Imran Khan-chairman of the PTI through vote of no-confidence motion, passed in the National Assembly (NA) on April 9, this year by the then joint opposition-PDM—following the order of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP).

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PDM members of the assembly were insisting upon the deputy speaker to start voting on the no-trust move, but those of the PTI wanted to conclude final decision of the House about the foreign conspiracy.

PTI lawmakers remarked that under Article 69 of the Constitution, NA speaker’s ruling has immunity and PTI lawmaker Shireen Mazari called the apex court’s verdict a “judicial coup”.

However, extraordinary developments of midnight of April 9 and April 10, 2022 surprised the nation. In this regard, filing of an emergency petition by Advocate Adnan Iqbal in the Islamabad High Court, seeking to restrain then Premier Khan from de-notifying Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa is notable.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial also opened the SCP to initiate contempt of court against the NA speaker, if court’s order on no-trust motion was not implemented.

Sources suggest that Islamabad had been put on high alert and prison vans had been deployed—police had been increased ahead of the no-trust vote against then PM Khan. The FIA [Federal Investigation Agency] immigration was directed to strictly enforce the ban on government officials going abroad. It is unclear that who was behind these moves, while Imran Khan was still prime minister.

BBC on April 10, 2022 indicated: “When Imran Khan was elected prime minister…had the covert backing of what in Pakistan is referred to as the establishment or the military. The army has either directly or indirectly controlled the country”.

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In this respect, the ISPR rejected various false reports of the foreign media, and a report by the BBC Urdu “fake”.

But, fact remains that leaders of the then opposition parties-PDM were calling the ex-Premier Khan as the “selected prime minister”, while saying that the PTI government was installed by the “establishment” through rigging in the elections of 2018. They were using these terms to blame Pakistan Army or army chief.

Meanwhile, NA selected Shehbaz Sharif as the new prime minister after the PTI MNAs boycotted the election and resigned from the lower house.

The former PM Imran Khan decided to go to the public, demanding early elections, and announced to launch a mass movement against the PDM.

On Khan’s call, the PTI on April 10 and April 16, 2022 staged countrywide protests against the “imported government”.

Recently, addressing a massive crowd in Peshawar, Karachi and Lahore, the ex-Premier Khan almost repeated his previous statements. Blaming the US, he said: “A major international conspiracy was carried out against his government and this country…I cannot allow our country to become a slave to anyone”.

Referring to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, he elaborated: One Mir Jaffer has been imposed on us via a conspiracy…the US officials had started meeting the leaders of the then opposition parties at the American embassy…the US official Donald Lu met the Pakistani ambassador…had threatened him that if the no-confidence motion was not successful then it will be very difficult for Pakistan…Pakistan would be “forgiven” if the no-confidence motion succeeds”.

Pakistan’s history is full of constitutional violations. In this context, Gen. Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, the then army chief snatched power from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the elected prime minister—PPP’s chairman in a coup on July 5, 1977. Afterwards, he was executed, which has been called by many renowned persons as a judicial murder.

He stated: “The United States was not happy with his independent foreign policy…to see Pakistan’s relations flourishing with China and Russia…US questioned my visit to Russia”.

The PTI chairman mentioned that the courts were opened at 12 am on the day of the vote of no confidence, saying, “I want to ask what crime I was committing that the courts were opened at odd hours”.

The ex-PM Khan appreciated the Army, but, criticised it indirectly, stating: “I knew the match was fixed…I asked the Supreme Court why it did not investigate the diplomatic cypher”.

He added: “We don’t want any confrontation but the mistake of imposing the “imported government” can only be rectified by holding immediate elections in the country” and asked the people “to get ready for his call to gathering in Islamabad in the next phase of the movement”.

He also asked the judiciary why they did not take suo motu action when the PTI’s dissident lawmakers betrayed their mandate by violating Constitution’s article 63.

And leaders of the then joint opposition parties challenged the authenticity of the ‘threat letter’.

During a recent press conference, former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, condemning the criticism of the Pakistan Army on social media, apparently acknowledged the “misunderstandings” of the PTI with the military.

While, during the Formation Commanders’ Conference chaired by Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the country’s top military brass has taken notice of the recent propaganda campaign by some quarters to malign Pakistan Army and create a division between the institution and society.

But, the Islamabad High Court restrained the FIA from harassing PTI’s social media activists.

In a recent press briefing, DG of ISPR Maj-Gen. Babar Iftikhar stated that the word ‘conspiracy’ was not mentioned in the communiqué issued following the meeting of the National Security Committee. But, he admitted that the demarche was issued to the foreign country [US] over the use of undiplomatic language which tantamount to interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs. Babar added that Imran Khan contacted the military leadership.

Responding to the ISPR statement, Shireen Mazari emphatically clarified that deposed Prime Minister Khan had not called the military leadership for help to break the “political deadlock” …instead “the military sought the meeting through then defence minister [Pervaiz] Khattak…Imran Khan refused option of resigning…DG ISPR stated that Imran Khan’s Russia trip was undertaken after approval from all”.

These contradictory clarifications by the ISPR and PTI are being used by pro and anti-PTI supporters and media persons to vindicate their respective narratives.

Notably, in November 2020 when the PDM had launched a movement to topple the elected regime of PTI, addressing a PDM rally in Gujranwala via a video link from London, ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accused army chief Bajwa and ISI chief Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed of rigging elections and toppling his government to install Imran Khan in his place.

Since July 28, 2017 when the Supreme Court announced its verdict in connection with the Panama Papers case and disqualified the then PM Nawaz Sharif regarding corruption charges, the deposed prime minister-head of the PML-N and his daughter Maryam Nawaz were, openly, criticising the Supreme Court and Army. Thus, they had been misguiding the people and were provoking them against the key institutions.

Pakistan’s history is full of constitutional violations. In this context, Gen. Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, the then army chief snatched power from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the elected prime minister—PPP’s chairman in a coup on July 5, 1977. Afterwards, he was executed, which has been called by many renowned persons as a judicial murder.

Constitution was also violated on October 12, 1999 by Gen. (R) Pervez Musharraf’s coup, while Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry issued order that as a chief executive, Gen. Musharraf could administer the government’s affairs.

As regards Pakistan’s politicians, they have always claimed that they nourish democratic ideals, but, we could not establish this system on a strong footing, as under the cover of democracy, they prefer their selfish personal interests over the national interests.

Alliances are formed to win the elections or topple the rival regime. Political leaders also misguide the general masses by forming extreme opinion among them against their opponents.

At present, PTI’s workers have been distorting Army’s image in such a way that general masses have forgotten the sacrifices and services of the armed forces.

Unfortunately, some irresponsible leaders of the PTI and PDM are moving the country towards anarchy or civil war. It could be judged from the Punjab Assembly (PA) which turned into a battlefield on April 16, this year just as the voting for the new chief minister was scheduled to take place.

Even, PML-N’s parliamentarian Khawaja Muhammad Asif recently admitted that the coalition partners in the government should move for seeking fresh mandate from masses to avert a civil-war like situation in the country.

Nevertheless, in the past and present, mistakes have been committed by almost all the political, judicial and military entities. Let us forget them. But, it does not mean that politicians and people should particularly tarnish Army’s image as an institute, which is coping with internal and external challenges.

At this critical hour, the government and the opposition leaders, including all other segments of society must show selfless national unity to pull the country out of the ongoing serious crisis.

Sajjad Shaukat
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations and can be reached at [email protected]

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