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Pakistan Deaths
Pakistan Cases

EDITORIAL: We’ll still have to wait and see just how rotten the can of worms, which was opened when the now widely-circulating video showing lawmakers selling their loyalties in exchange of bundles of banknotes ahead of the 2018 Senate election, really turns out to be. But to cut a long story short, you don’t even have to put two and two together to know that this strange coincidence has happened only because the government is desperate to back its case for an open vote in the 2021 Senate election. And that, according to the opposition, has led to the sudden awakening to the need for transparency or ending horse-trading, because it seriously fears a revolt inside its ranks. The prime minister, however, points out that had he or his party been in possession of such a video he would have come out with it much earlier when he sought the opposition’s support to get the constitution amended. There appears to be merit in the prime minister’s assertion because then he would not have had to eat his words in January and announce grant of Rs500 million in ‘development funds’ to each and every Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers; something the opposition promptly dubbed “political bribe” and even the Supreme Court took notice of and threatened to initiate legal proceedings if found violating the spirit of the constitution.

The first question that somebody must now answer is ‘why now’? Clearly, whoever made the video was counting on cashing it in on at the right time since the spirit of honesty and service to country and democracy, etc., would demand coming out with it immediately. The website that first hosted it made no mention of its source. In fact, the first time anybody talked about this video evidence was Prime Minister Imran Khan himself, in 2018, when he expelled 20 PTI MPAs (Members of Provincial Assembly) because of it. He also promised to turn all the turncoats over to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Yet not only did NAB receive no such request or evidence even after he became PM but his party is now using this video, just as expected, as vindication of its position on the Senate poll. Who, then, will explain the inertia of the last three years when all this was known, backed by incontrovertible evidence, and nothing was done about it and who, more importantly, will answer for it?

There seems some weight after all in claims that the government is acting in haste and making mistakes here and there, perhaps even panicking. To have to go against its will and accommodate important allies, deal with almost all the opposition ganging up on it all at once, handle public fury over rising prices of essential items, and also toggle seats for the Senate election at the same time is beginning to take its toll. But in trying to solve all its problems by making too much of an issue of horse trading PTI risks raising questions that might put it in an awkward position as well. For there are more than a few instances where secret balloting worked its magic, horse trading and all, in favour of the ruling party; the most notable being the 2019 no-confidence motion against the Senate chairman that ended in tears for the opposition. Now people have begun wondering, quite naturally, just who abused the constitution in that case and bought those votes, and how they should be found out and punished for it also?

Regrettably, it is fast turning out that the biggest casualty of this slugfest between the government and the opposition about transparency in Senate election proceedings is the institution of democracy itself. People, already let down by the traditional shameless ‘votes for notes’ mentality that dominates the election for the Upper House, will no doubt lose even more hope because those that had the evidence and power to handle this issue in accordance with the law have been, for all intents and purpose, playing politics with it all along. Granted, all types of elections must be completely transparent and corruption must never be allowed to dictate the composition of the Senate, but the cleansing will have to start with making examples out of everybody that got caught with their hands in the cookie jar instead of scoring short-term political points.

As things stand, PTI’s internal divisions are creating reactions that are spilling all over the political arena at a time when the opposition is falling over itself in trying to unseat the government, which leaves the people with precious little to celebrate about the fruits of democracy. What can be said with certainty, though, that more will come out of this rotten can of worms that is sure to dominate the headlines till at least the Senate election on March 3.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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