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EDITORIAL: Addressing via a video link on Thursday, his party activists and supporters protesting outside the offices of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against its contentious verdict in the PTI’s prohibited funding case, former prime minister Imran Khan hit out at the ruling coalition and the powers that be who, he said, wanted to knock him out on technical grounds.

The electoral body, he alleged, is the “biggest tool” in Pakistan through which “hidden hands” manipulate elections (though purportedly, his own party had benefited from some pre-polls manipulations).

Warming to the theme, he averred people vote for one party but another gets elected, adding that the ECP is the “biggest tool” used to control democracy in this country. The PTI’s move to introduce electronic voting machines, he claimed, would have deterred the ‘hidden hands’ from manipulating election results, but was opposed by the ECP and some political parties.

Few may disagree with him on that Pakistan remains a controlled or a hybrid democracy where starting from the electoral process to the State policies and goals everything is subject to institutional oversight.

The two major parties in the present ruling coalition, the PML-N and PPP, have complained of such intrusions in the past following premature ouster from power for asserting their mandate. Yet when in opposition almost all politicians have willingly colluded with the establishment to bring down elected governments. There is a long list of such collusions.

Out in the cold and having learnt lessons from their past experiences Sharif and Bhutto met in London in 2006 where they signed the famous ‘Charter of Democracy’. In it, among other things, they pledged not to solicit the support of establishment to come into power or to dislodge a democratic government. Sadly, Benazir was assassinated before the end of the Musharraf regime. In the ensuing period, however, both her party’s government and Nawaz League’s completed their full terms in office.

Now those parties along with several smaller players — 13 of them altogether — are not only believed to have gone along with the establishment in forcing Imran Khan out of power, but are trying to have him disqualified for life to contest elections.

That can bite back their leaders, too, at some point in future. Nevertheless, a key reason for their animus towards Imran is his own attitude. He refuses to talk to his rival politicians calling them a bunch of corrupt criminals who should be in jail, which makes them double down on their stance.

Both sides need to stop and think about the harm they are causing to their own interests and above all to the country and its struggling economy. Talking with each other will do them and the democratic project a lot of good.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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