Sunday, July 21, 2024
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PDM between Devil and deep sea

By Qamar Bashir

Former Press Secretary to the President

Former Press Minister to the Embassy of Pakistan to France

The constituent parties of PDM, who have conveniently distributed government and associated perks and privileges among themselves as war booty, are the archetypal case of being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. At one end is an impending excruciating election loss if elections are held, and at the other end is the sharp and lethal sword of contempt of court, poised to do what it does best.

Big question perhaps haunting all of us is why the entire PDM is so terrified to run for election that they are willing to sacrifice quite a few heads on the altar of impending and imminent contempt of court and may even sacrifice the government, or whether they have some solid guarantees from those shepherding them together to replace the previous government with a mysterious end.

Do they have a creative game plan that we, the immortals, are unable to comprehend, a game that will allow the PDM to postpone the elections indefinitely without fear of the courts, civil society, or the most dangerously vocal and popular opposition we have ever witnessed in our lifetimes? Why are they acting like a pigeon with its head buried in the sand, assuming the storm has passed? What are their pieces of chess that give them the strength and courage to defy the supreme court’s express orders and the constitution with flimsy and irrelevant justifications?

Their sole strategy was crystal clear: file as many charges as possible against Imran Khan, entice him to make grave errors, imprison him, and disqualify him from holding public office. They got off to a good start in achieving this objective, publicizing the Toosha Khana case, drumbeating foreign funding case, and filing over 140 FIRs on charges ranging from violating section 144 to terrorism. All of these weapons were rendered ineffective because their own skeletons in the closet overshadowed those of Imran Khan and deflated the balloon. Maryam’s most recent interview with Mansoor Ali Khan exposed not only Maryam and her family, but also Asif Ali Zardari and his retinue with proven cases of ruthlessly looting the Toosha khana and making allegations against Khan dwarfed and peanuts. They deprived the exchequer of millions of valuable revenues that could have been realized if the then-prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, had not relaxed the rules and allowed them to illegally appropriate several luxurious and expensive vehicles. The foreign funding case lost steam due to a lack of admissible evidence in court, making it another empty cartridge like the numerous FIRs that are being quashed for lacking any basis, evidence, or legality. So far, so good, their hopes of putting Imran Khan behind bars have been dashed due to the lack of support from the deep state, which may have realised quite correctly that putting Imran Khan behind bars would be suicidal due to the public support he has garnered.

The subsequent plan was to bring Nawaz Sharif back to the country honorably and exonerated based on the narrative of balancing both sides of the justice panel by enacting the Nawaz Sharif specific Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Bill, 2023 to allow him to appeal against his conviction and receive a clean bill so that he could lead his party and become Prime Minister for the fourth time. The move was accompanied by increasing political pressure on the supreme court, dividing the court to the point where it would have had no choice but to clear Nawaz Sharif of all charges. As a result of the parliament’s haste, it may have intentionally closed its eyes to the fact that entering the domain of the judiciary can only be done through a constitutional amendment, and any law with inherent intrusion into the affairs of the judiciary without constitutional backing will be deemed unconstitutional and struck down in no time. As predicted by numerous analysts and in my own previous articles, the Supreme Court has aborted the challenged act before its birth. This plan, despite being quite sound, appears to have fallen short of its intended objective.

Their contingency plan to defy the supreme court’s order to provide Rs. 20 billion for holding punjab assembly elections by using parliament has also been thwarted, as the supreme court in its wisdom very rightly kept the scope of hearing very tight and only summoned the state functionaries to implement its orders, leaving both the government and the parliament in the state of nothingness and with no say in the provision of funds and security for holding the elections. The supreme court conveniently ignored all resolutions passed by the parliament against the superior judiciary and the hurling of threats by the government, their pledges to defy the supreme court’s order no matter what, as if they had never occurred, a remarkable and unprecedented display of restraint reflecting court intent to remain focused on implementation of constitutional provisions as opposed to becoming entangled in allegations and counter allegations.

The Supreme Court has already ordered the State Bank of Pakistan, in coordination with the Ministry of Finance, to provide the necessary funds by passing approval of the government, which consists of the Prime Minister and the cabinet and in total disregard of resolution passed by the parliament and its passing and further treatment of money bill.

The illogical and suicidal denial and defiance of Supreme Court orders by the PDM validates the opposition’s narrative that, while launching a regime change operation, the PDM was promised a smooth ride up until the next general elections, but it is becoming increasingly difficult even for the deep state to keep its word.  Their demonstrated ability to divide, coax, and arm-twist the judiciary in order to obtain favourable decisions succeeded in dividing the judiciary, but fell short of achieving the desired objective, which was to arrest and disqualify Imran Khan, exonerate Nawaz Sharif of all charges, and postpone the elections until October or later.

Maryam Nawaz’s suspicions that remnants of the former DG, ISI continue to assist Imran Khan in achieving his political goals may be partially justified. It is also documented that the Bajwa doctrine assigned the Punjab and KP governments to the PTI in order to keep the new regime in check and make the PTI a partner in the economic collapse. But PTI, either out of high ambition or naivete, chose not to pursue Bajwa’s plan and instead dissolved both the assemblies, which at the time appeared to be an unthoughtful and unwise decision. However, that decision now appears to be the correct one, as the new regime is in excruciating pain to go for elections, which, if held, are likely to result in the sudden death of all the PDM’s constituent political parties.

The failure of the plans and waning support of the deep state, the current act of PDM to defy the constitution and non-compliance of express orders of the supreme court appears to be an act of deep desperation and hopelessness, as if they have no other options or ways to survive than to create an atmosphere of perceived injustice and to employ coercive, undemocratic, indoctrinated, and manipulative acts to remain in power as long as possible to avoid sudden and imminent political suicide.  PDM, which has access to a large number of legal minds, is well aware that willfully refusing to comply with the Supreme Court’s order can lead to a constitutional crisis and the collapse of the rule of law. In such cases, the Supreme Court may issue a writ of mandamus, which is a court order compelling a public official or entity to perform a specific duty.

PDM appeared to have chosen to invite the Supreme Court to take aggressive action to disqualify either the prime minister or the government as a whole and become political martyrs, despite knowing that trampling the constitution and disobeying the supreme court’s orders threatens the very foundations of democracy. This can have grave implications for the functioning of the state and the rule of law in the country, as well as for the rights and liberties of its citizens, prompting civil society to take to the streets and, through public pressure, restore the honour and dignity of the supreme court and reestablish the rule of law and the constitution. We have already witnessed the most vocal and influential members of the legal community has publicly started demanding the restoration of constitutional order as we have witnessed against Pervez Musharaf, which ultimately resulted in his removal from power and ignoble exile from the country until his ignominious death, such movements quickly gained momentum, leaving the government with no choice but to concede to their demands.

Had the government’s performance on the economic and financial front been exceptional, it could have gained public and media attention; however, the government has demonstrated deterioration in every aspect of governance. Mansoor Ali Khan’s current interrogation of Maryam has provided ample evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the entire PDM leadership. The most recent economic forecast released by the IMF predicted one of the worst economic performances in decades. Inflation is at an all-time high, and unemployment is rising sharply, resulting in widespread poverty and social unrest. The perception of political repression, censorship, and human rights violations is alienating large segments of the population and provoking a backlash. Foreign policy without bite is causing diplomatic isolation and loss of national prestige. Moreover, the government is perceived to have disregarded the constitution and the law of the land, which has the potential to spark a crisis that will translate into a further steep decline in popularity and effectiveness, which would ultimately result in political suicide

Although it is too late for the PDM to save itself from political extinction and the disqualification of a few of its members from holding public office, they still have a small window of opportunity to abandon their self-serving interpretation of the constitution. It should cease passing person-specific laws, awaken and take the correct pulse of the people and masses, and view the judiciary’s role in the democratic system as essential to upholding the rule of law and the Constitution. It should cease interfering with the role of the judiciary and attempting to influence its decisions, and instead collaborate to ensure that both the judicial system and the judiciary operate efficiently.

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