Proscribing politicians

Has the government no way other than proscription to stop the PTI?

The increasing crescendo of voices from Coalition politicians demanding the banning of the Pakistan Tehrik Insaf as a terrorist organization implies that politicians are not to be trusted. True, This seems a purely legalistic means of dealing with a purely political problem: the Coalition is going to lose big to the PTI if an election is held. The solution of making the PTI vanish may be superficially attractive, but it would have unforeseeable consequences, and would only play into the hands of those who reject politicians as untrustworthy, and as lesser beings.

It is true that the PTI does not regard the law as above its leader, and that the recent standoff at Zaman Park showed that Mr Khan cannot be forced by a court to appear before it. His two appearances at the Islamabad Judicial Complex show that hordes of unruly party workers will be there, and the police will be hard-pressed to contain the crowd. However, that still does not meet the legal standard of terrorism. The list of proscribed organizations under the Anti-Terrorism Act, includes organizations ready to use violence to achieve their ends. It also includes organizations which intend to use terror to further their aims. They do not fight elections, perhaps because they know that they will receive a pasting at the hustings. On the other hand, the PTI is anxious to contest elections. Indeed, at this point, it seems to be the only party which so wants to contest. At the same time, even the reluctant Coalition parties, are nothing if not election-fighting organizations.

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It must be conceded by the Coalition that it has the same aim as the PTI: getting its leader to become Prime Minister. That means getting a majority of the National Assembly, and that means contesting elections. The process may be messy. Some parties, like the PTI, may sail close to the wind. However, only those who look too hard for neatness and regularity in life, who prefer rapped-out parade-ground orders to the cacophony of an assembly, would look with ease upon proscription of a political entity. The PTI’s obedience of the law and the Constitution may be self-serving, but can any party claim to be more altruistic? The Coalition should overcome its self-righteousness and consider whether it will gain politically from such an action or lose? It must let self-interest determine its actions, not anyone’s desire for neatness.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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