PTI chief Imran Khan is getting deeper into trouble for a political leader who made the rule of law one of the planks on his platform. While no one denies that he has every right to use all legal remedies and forums to avert injustice, the spectacle of him avoiding arrest does not present an edifying spectacle. Even if one was to accept his argument that the charges against him are political persecution, it still does not explain why he has refused to appear before the trial court in the Toshakhana case, where he is supposed to hear the indictment re4ad out against him, and he is supposed to enter a plea. Instead of surrendering to the court, so that presumably he can expose the charges for the falsehoods he claims they are, he has chosen to hide from the police party sent to arrest him. His own political opponents, during his stint in office, also claimed that the charges against them were politically motivated, but duly surrendered to the authorities which came to arrest them.
If Mr Khan shows that he does not respect the law, the Punjab government has shown that it is not far behind. It claimed security threats to impose Section 144 in Lahore, which let it crack down on a PTI rally on Wednesday. How the Punjab government expects any party to campaign when it has imposed a ban on public gatherings, is not known. The Lahore High Court and the Supreme Court have both called for elections to be held to the recently dissolved Punjab Assembly, and there is only a limited time for the April 30 elections, for which the schedule has been issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan.
The law is to be upheld by everyone if the elections are to be held. After all, elections are supposed to be held because they are legally prescribed. It should not be assumed that there is an element of choice in obeying a court’s orders. There is also a dangerous trend observable in the Punjab governments order, where the threat of terrorism was used for partisan purposes. Apart from the danger inherent in this, the Punjab government should avoid the sort of behaviour that would lead to its being labelled a mere adjunct of the PDM coalition at the centre. A caretaker government is supposed to be neutral. That neutrality must be accepted by all. That does not seem to be happening.