Back to talks?

Adjournment of Punjab polls case shows that talks are the only solution

The Supreme Court has adjourned to next week its hearing of a suo motu reference about the Punjab assembly elections, without taking any of the drastic actions that was being predicted against the Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet, and Treasury MNAs. This action was being predicted because the Court had declared itself bent on applying the April 14 date it had set for fresh elections. Its failure to have the date it set meant that it had failed to have its order obeyed for the second time this year. The first time was also over an election, which the Election Commission of Pakistan refused to conduct, of the Islamabad local councils.

Speculation cannot be avoided about the influence of the PDM sit-in, taking place, at the time of the sitting of the three-member Bench hearing the case. Just down the road, down Constitution Avenue, Parliament had also met in joint session. The National Assembly passed a resolution setting up a special committee to draft a reference against the Chief Justice of Pakistan, who was heading the bench. The Bench reverted to a mechanism that had already failed to deliver a solution, that of talks. Once again, the Bench showed that it did not regard as immutable the 90-day limit within the Constitution for general elections after a dissolution, by saying that the political parties should put their heads together and come up with a date that can be agreed on.

In principal, this is the best way out, probably the only way out. The ability of politicians to get together and find a way out of whatever difficulty theft might be in, is proverbial; the current dispute over the US borrowing cap being an example. However, at the moment, there is a practical difficulty. The PTI had selected three negotiators with some difficulty, but two of them have been arrested since last the talks took place, being held during the protests over party chief Imran Khan’s arrest. Mr Khan’s desire for a hardline stance during the negotiations remains unchanged, as does his legendary refusal to talk to those he considers corrupt, so it seems there is a dilemma there for both the PTI and the government. While the government has not had anyone arrested, at the moment it does not have anyone to talk to. It is not a simple matter of releasing negotiators, because the charges involve charges of damaging military installations, and their release would require the establishment to be on board… The Supreme Court has given itself a hard row to hoe.

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

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