EDITORIAL: PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) is clearly trying to wriggle out of its isolation, moving pieces across the board to get the so-called establishment, along with other premier institutions of the state, to grant it a “level playing field” ahead of the general election.
So, while participants in meetings between the party’s information secretary and the president, and between Shafqat Mehmood and the caretaker information minister, are trying to play them down, enough chatter has reached the press to suggest that efforts are underway, most likely at the behest of PTI chairman Imran Khan, for a “grand national dialogue”.
This makes sense. Politics is the art of the possible, after all, and this seems like the moment when PTI is maturing from its earlier refusal to talk to anybody else, no matter how urgent the situation, to one where it accepts the centrality of dialogue in the greater political process. And as the country’s largest and (still) most popular political party, it is well within its rights to demand that “level playing field” so close to the election.
Strangely, though, the caretaker interior minister has thrown a spanner in the works, so to speak, by saying that “there is no room for any dialogue with the attackers and planners of May 9”.
No doubt he was referring to PTI, especially its high command, which would imply that he, at least, has reached the conclusion that everybody being tried for the said attacks is guilty as charged. Yet that contradicts the cardinal rule of “innocent until proven guilty”.
Surely, he’s mindful that as a sitting minister he does not have the luxury of personal opinions, especially on matters of supreme national importance. And, for all intents and purposes, his utterances in fact reflect the official position of the caretaker government; whose number-one responsibility is to ensure “free and fair elections”. But is that really possible when the government acts as judge, jury and executioner even as the honourable courts are going about their business?
There’s also the rather obvious fact that the country is passing through a very fragile situation at the moment. Everybody knows that unprecedented political bitterness, just when the economy was on the brink of complete collapse, almost brought the whole house crashing down just last year.
There’s no denying that PTI played perhaps the biggest role in creating that atmosphere of animosity, but that does not mean it can be sidelined, especially this close to a monumental general election, unless the law says so. And the law hasn’t delivered its final verdict yet.
It’s also true that the country hasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, successfully negotiated any of its existential crises yet. And, as so often stressed in this space, there is an urgent need for all political parties and all leading institutions to sit together, indeed initiate a “grand national dialogue”, and chart a way forward where nobody disagrees on the most important tasks at hand. For, it would do nobody any good, regardless of who is in jail and who is in power, if the country breaks down and defaults.
There is still time to get the house in order. But that would require everybody in it to play along. And that is not possible without the “level playing field” that PTI is now demanding. Of course, it is ironic that a party deliberately pushing everybody else away not too long ago is now pleading for inclusivity, but that is the long-term nature of politics. And unless other parties, and institutions, also display the maturity needed to appreciate and accept this reality, everybody will suffer in the end.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023