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EditorialToying with democracy in Punjab

Toying with democracy in Punjab

After the constitutional chaos in the centre, Punjab is bracing for a similar turmoil as the deputy speaker has deferred the session of the Punjab Assembly to elect the chief executive of Pakistan’s most important and powerful province till April 16. The action smacks of maliciousness, and cannot be justified. The session must be called at the earliest. Earlier, the assembly was set to elect the chief minister today. This is the second time the deputy speaker has evaded the election. Earlier on April 3, the assembly conducted its shortest-ever session – six-minute-long – in the last sitting when the members started beating each other. The opposition alleges that the government side called off the session and bought time to avert its defeat in voting for the chief minister. The treasury side has pitched experienced politician Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, while the Pakistan Muslim League-N-led opposition has taken its beaten paths, and has gone for the obvious choice – Hamza Shehbaz. The opposition, which has shown its majority in informal meetings, fears the government may try to sabotage the voting process by suspending its 40 members for rowdyism on April 3. The members in question, no doubt, vandalized the assembly premises and they must face the consequences, but they should not be barred from the crucial voting. Any measure stopping the MPAs from taking part in the voting is tantamount to subverting democratic norms. Earlier, what the National Assembly deputy speaker committed on April 3, has blackened the democratic history of the country.  The matter has landed in the Supreme Court.

As time is going by, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is losing its members in Punjab. Though floor crossing and horse-trading cannot be condoned at any cost, the PTI leadership must exercise soul-searching to find faults with its leadership style and the way the members have been treated. The party has lost the support of its once die-hard and front-line leaders like Chaudhry Sarwar, Aleem Khan, and Jahangir Tareen; the three have become the arch-rivals of the party, in general, and party’s chairman Imran Khan, in particular. The sacked governor, Chaudhry Sarwar, alleges he was punished for his outright refusal to undertake illegal and unconstitutional measures to help Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi win the top office in Punjab. After the PTI has lost government control in the centre, it will try to retain the administrative and political control of Punjab. The other side is also trying hard to grab the province so that the upcoming national elections are influenced. But the opposition must be condemned for promoting factionalism, floor-crossing, and horse-trading. The era of Changa Manga politics has come back, haunting the corridors of assemblies. This time, the opposition has housed members in posh hotels. The PTI leadership has urged its workers to protest against the dissenters. The level of anger and frustration among the core PTI workers suggests the protest may turn into violence. The political atmosphere is already charged.  Both sides are advised to exercise restraint and let the democratic process flourish in the country. The continuity of assemblies that started in 2008, thanks to the political maturity of the leadership of that time, has fortunately come to an end. The next few days are very important for the country and amid growing internal and external problems – economic and geostrategic – the country may not bear any missteps.


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