The public at large has spoken, as independents backed by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have emerged as the largest political group in the 2024 elections despite all the pre-poll hurdles and post-poll juggles. There can be no political stability without the public mandate on board, nor economic stability without political stability. Healing is impossible without respecting the public mandate.
Several options are on the table. One is to have PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) 2.0. where almost all political parties (excluding PTI-backed independents) form the government at the center, with some form of the coalition in Punjab as Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) would not let it go to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) alone, PPP’s in Sindh, and PTI’s in KP.
However, this is likely to be a sure recipe for disaster. Disregarding the popular mandate undermines any healing process. The resulting coalition would be weak, and smaller parties could exploit it, as seen in the last PDM government with the soyabeans import issue.
Some argue that this would strengthen the role of SIFC (Special Investment Facilitation Council) and be a hybrid plus, as no political party within the PDM would have close to a majority. Economic decision-making would be in the hands of the SIFC, ensuring the next IMF (International Monetary Fund) programme and path to stability. However, this scenario relies on the assumption that PTI voters abstained, which did not happen. Controversies persist in many constituencies, with discrepancies in relation to Form-45 and Form-47 of election results. Legal battles are ongoing.
The second option is reelection due to doubts about results in several seats in Punjab and Karachi, mainly benefiting PML-N and MQM-P (Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan). If permanent damage to results is proven, a new election within six months could be considered, with caretakers in charge until then. There was no level playing field in the elections insofar as one particular party was cornered. A better healing process is to have a level playing field for all let the political players and establishment sort out issues between them, and let the public vote again, and respect it.
The third option is to resolve polling day controversies through vote recounts in constituencies where rigging allegations exist and where candidates have substantial discrepancies between Form-45 and Form-47. In this case, PTI-backed independents could form governments at the center, KP, and in Punjab.
Coalition talks would still be necessary, with PTI possibly negotiating with PPP. Ultimately, respecting the public mandate means allowing the party with the highest number of votes and seats to make decisions. They still must make a coalition in the center (though PTI is claiming that based on Form-45, they have a simple majority). If the coalition is to be formed, the only chance for PTI to talk is with PPP. Here the chances are not high either. However, let this decision be with PTI leadership whom people have chosen in the election.
The only path to healing is by respecting the public mandate and resolving issues between the establishment and PTI leadership for the sake of the public at large. This requires PTI leadership to demonstrate magnanimity and move away from vengeful politics, embracing a “forgive and forget” approach to bring stability to the country’s economy. Regardless of the chosen path, stability, both political and economic, hinges on respecting the public mandate.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2024