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EDITORIAL: Punjab’s political crisis grows worse by the day, with only more complications in sight. The Supreme Court of Pakistan’s opinion about Article 63-A of the constitution and Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP’s) subsequent action might have sealed the fate of dissenters, but the domino effect hasn’t reached Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Sharif just yet.

Constitutional experts seem pretty sure that the next legal step is a vote of confidence, where the latest count still seems to put Hamza ahead by a hair’s breadth, but PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) is convinced that nothing more is needed to dissolve the assembly and go to a fresh election.

The problem is that this is one of those few important decisions that must come from the office of the governor. And since the province is without one at the moment, and this matter is also in court along with so many others related to this same constitutional crisis, nobody seems to know what to do till the judgments start pouring in.

Even then, whichever decisions are reached by the high courts are sure to be challenged in the Supreme Court, so there’s no telling yet when the final bell will ring on the whole thing. It can be safely said, however, that whether or not the Punjab governor is reinstated, the biggest test Hamza Sharif is likely to face is a show of strength in the house.

Right now PML-N commands 177 votes with the help of independents and Rah-e-Haq party; or 174 if rumours of four dissenting members are correct. Pervez Elahi, on the other hand, has a tally of 173 if PTI gets all five MPAs on reserved seats back; and 172 if the deputy speaker’s vote is not counted. Chaudhary Nisar, who could in one possible scenario be called upon to cast the swing vote, hasn’t bothered to come to the house so far.

While the courts do their work, it’s impossible not to notice that this crisis developed and deepened not because one or the other party involved wanted to fight to the end for the right to relieve the people of their miseries, but only because they wanted all power for themselves.

And it’s a shame that the country has been brought to a standstill because its chief institutions are busy cleaning up a big mess from a turf war between some very powerful politicians.

That’s why it’s no surprise that neither the system nor the headlines have much time for people’s issues right now. It’s all about who’s taken whom to court, and which decision will prove good for which party, that sets the course for everything; even the economy, which continues to suffer.

It shouldn’t really be very hard to move forward, provided everybody wants to. Once the governor’s position is decided, all that remains, at most, is a vote of confidence. And once that is done, the bureaucracy can once again start reporting up the chain of command, and the wheel of government of the most significant province can start moving again.

Seeing how things are going, it would not be surprising to see a few more matters end up in court as well, putting completely unnecessary pressure on the judiciary when it is already burdened by a huge backlog.

Such things would be more readily acceptable if the system were delivering to a greater degree. Punjab’s worsening crisis isn’t nearly as much about the constitution as it is about big egos and bigger interests. And there is nothing the people can do except watch as their political masters play with their present and future.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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