EDITORIAL: Wise political players in functioning democracies create conditions for mutually acceptable compromises.
There was never a greater need for that mode of doing politics than in the present highly polarised atmosphere, exacerbated by the ongoing crackdown on the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf), arguably the most popular political party.
Finding himself and his party in a bind, last week Imran Khan looking for some respite, reversed his oft-repeated resolve not to ever interact with the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition and formed a committee to hold talks with the government, which was promptly rejected by the other side.
In a Twitter post on Tuesday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif once again rebuffed Khan’s negotiations offer, saying those involved in destruction of private and public property on May 9 should be held accountable for their ‘anti-state’ actions.
“Dialogue”, he added, “is a key to evolving democracy but it cannot be held with ‘anarchists and arsonists’ in the garb of politicians.” There are no two opinions on that those implicated in vandalism at the Lahore Corps Commander’s House and other properties should face the full force of the law. But an entire party should not, cannot, be indicted for the acts of a few people.
The Prime Minister indirectly acknowledged that there is a crisis-like situation which needs to be resolved as he went on to state that many political and constitutional breakthroughs occurred when political leaders sat across the table to create a consensus, though he insisted the PTI does not qualify for a dialogue because of the May 9 events.
Allegations remain mere allegations unless proved via due process of law. In fact, even before that fateful day the government had rejected the PTI chief’s first offer for talks.
Those in government have kept upping the ante, going as far as to talk of banning the PTI and declaring Khan a ‘traitor’. And although he was in jail on May 9, the Interior Minister has accused the PTI leader of having planned and executing attacks on military installations to make a case for trying him in a military court. Such ham-fisted tactics to keep a national party out of the political fray are not in the interest of this struggling democracy.
Nor will it diminish the PTI, as history has shown when the National Awami Party (NAP) was banned, it resurfaced as Awami National Party (ANP), the PPP was subjected to witch-hunt, and later the PML-N broken up to create a king’s party.
Besides, the treatment being meted out to PTI leaders, activists, and supporters will haunt the current rulers whenever the shoe is on the other foot. Some of them may be nursing a grudge against Imran Khan because while in power he had refused to sit with the then opposition parties calling their leaders “thieves”. But two wrongs do not make a right.
Meanwhile, increasing political uncertainty is badly impacting an already fragile economy, making life harder and harder for the people. Only the other day, the federal minister for planning and development, Ahsan Iqbal while addressing a summit of business leaders in Islamabad, stressed the need for joint efforts to turn around the country and to achieve this goal he called for collaboration and an end to conflict.
This indeed is a sane counsel and deserves to be heeded. The government has primary responsibility to stop further vitiation of the political environment. It should engage in a dialogue with the main opposition party.
Astute politicians never shut the door on negotiations. They can agree to disagree. But they must reduce the political temperatures causing grievous harm to the democratic project.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023