Change of Guard in Pakistan: Perspectives and Significance

Can Shahbaz live up to the hopes nourished of him?

The assumption of Shahbaz Sharif, the ex-three-time Chief Minister of the Punjab Province of Pakistan, of the post of the country’s Prime Ministeron April 11 is a welcome step for all, if the current situation of Pakistan like problem of foreign debt, ever-rising dearness all around the year, global image of Pakistan issue of corruption, improve sooner than later in days to come.

Keeping in view his long political experience at the provincial level as well as his commitment and dedication in completing the projects, improving law and order along with infrastructural development the people of Pakistan \nourished high hopes of him in this hour of crisis. The democracy and politics of Pakistan, like other countries, is firmly based on its constitution whose nature is federal, where all the constituent units have found a high degree of autonomy and flexibility in their working. The head of the state is its president who enjoyed massive powers before the passing of the 18th Amendment in 2010 as the nation shifted from a semi-presidential to a purely parliamentary form of government, but the powers of the President include the grant of pardon as well as the ability to suspend or moderate any sentence passed by any court or authority.

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The Supreme Court falsified the logic of foreign conspiracy and restored the Assembly with an order of no-confidence vote on April 9, although it was some time after midnight when the government lost the majority’s confidence, later choosing Shahbaz Sharif as Leader of the House to become the 23rd Prime Minister of the country on 11 April. The people of Pakistan and across the globe thanked the judiciary for restoring the norms as well as values of both the Constitution and democracy in this part of the world.

Now, the country has three branches of the government Legislature, Executive, Judiciary, and two Houses of Parliament, the National Assembly and Senate. They all worked with co-operation and maintained a fine balance among them. At the peak of judiciary is the Supreme Court of Pakistan which knows the ethos of the Constitution and interprets it whenever a constitutional crisis emerges in the country. Even in the current political crisis the apex court has intervened and actively performed as per wishes and requirement of the political system established by law of the land.

Basically, from the beginning Pakistan is a multi-party democracy where several parties try to win the maximum seats in the parliamentary and provincial elections held from to time, but after the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971, the people of the country preferred centralist parties in view of unity and integrity of the nation and as a result they strengthened a two-party system: the PPP and PML( N) and over the years other centralist parties, the PML(Q) and the PTI of Imran Khan also became very popular.

In addition, the Army or military establishments have played a decisive role in the politics of the country and the periods from 1950s to 2000s several successful coups were made and military rulers took over, from Ayub Khan (1958) to Pervez Musharraf (2008), barring short democratic intervals, they  ruled the nation and kept it intact.

In the context, the resignation of Musharraf is best considered as a demarcation between military and politics of Pakistan. In past, most political parties of Pakistan had some understanding with the Army and they shared equally in all decisions of the government, national and foreign. The only party who opposed the interference of military in politics was the PML(N), headed by Nawaz Sharif, the elder brother of the present Prime Minister, Shahbaz Sharif. There onwards, the political system of Pakistan began moving towards the liberal democracy and kept, although theoretically, not a close relation with the Army establishment, but practically it is a known fact about the Army that still it plays a decisive role in policy making as well as its implementation, especially in matters of foreign policy.

The last general election for Pakistan’s National Assembly was held in 2018 in which Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the political party of cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, formed the government with the support of his allies on 20 August 2018 and took the oath as the 22nd Prime Minister of the country. At the time the PML(N) President, Shahbaz Sharif, also left the politics of Punjab province and became Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly.

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Although, Imran Khan had got most of the problems during his regime that he faced in legacy, and they had been continuing for some years back, he tried to get rid of them but could not succeed due to national and international constraints. Seeing no improvement under his leadership, public anger and frustration went high and a general consensus formed against him. This opportunity was fully utilized by the opposition parties together and unitedly. In the situation of mass movement, anger and disappointments the Opposition parties of Pakistan moved in the National Assembly of the country against the Government of Imran Khan and in the context, three options were also discussed with the establishment-resignation, no-confidence (vote), or election.

In a sudden development a constitutional crisis emerged in Pakistan when on March 8, the opposition parties submitted a motion of no-confidence against the government of Imran Khan in the Secretariat of National Assembly and, in response, on April 3 Fawad Chaudhry, newly appointed law minister in the government, spoke against the motion and claimed that a foreign power hds hatched the conspiracy to oust the government. As it was against the Article 5 of the constitution of Pakistan, the minister called on the Deputy Speaker of the House to decide in favour of the government and soon after this, Prime Minister himself addressed the nation and declared that he had advised the President to dissolve the assembly in view of the dismissal of the motion by the Deputy Speaker. Acting upon the advice, Arif Alvi, the President of Pakistan, dissolved the National Assembly under Article 58 of the Constitution.

On the same day, the joint opposition parties of the country convened a parallel session of the National Assembly and passed the no-confidence against the government of Imran Khan, but on the other after dissolution of the House the President asked Imran Khan to continue further as caretaker prime minister of the country. These extra constitutional developments presented a constitutional crisis before the country and in the situation the apex court took suo motu notice of the ongoing circumstances Having heard all sides of the case.

The Supreme Court falsified the logic of foreign conspiracy and restored the Assembly with an order of no-confidence vote on April 9, although it was some time after midnight when the government lost the majority’s confidence, later choosing Shahbaz Sharif as Leader of the House to become the 23rd Prime Minister of the country on 11 April. The people of Pakistan and across the globe thanked the judiciary for restoring the norms as well as values of both the Constitution and democracy in this part of the world.

Dr Rajkumar Singh
Dr Rajkumar Singh
The writer is head of the political science department of the B.N.Mandal University, Madhepura, Bihar, India and can be reached at [email protected]

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