Cover Story

90 Days Saga

The miserable 98 per cent of the 245 million population of Pakistan will remain doomed to multiple demons of elite exploitation, feudalism, poverty, illiteracy and terrorism.

By Nikhat Sattar | June 2023

In a game played by young lovers, they pluck petals off a daisy, singing ‘he/she loves me, he/she loves me not” as each petal falls off. If the petals finished at the first line, they would jump in exhilaration; if at the second, there is momentary sadness but, with usual youthful optimism, they begin again.

We, not lovers of the powerful, are at a juncture in Pakistan where the result of “will they”; will they not” hold the next elections in 2023 is as good as any analysis by the best of experts. We can start plucking off petals of daisies, or in our case, our own national flower, the Jasmine. Perhaps a better pastime than watching national television news or talk shows. At the rate we would need to begin all over, all jasmines in the country would be gone.

Over the past one year, politicians have maintained a state of constant chaos and hurled increasingly venomous abuse against each other. The establishment seemed to be operating quietly, but making sure that the coalition government is fully supported. That is, when on May 9, a miscalculation on their and the PDM’s behalf, led to the un-ceremonial arrest of Imran Khan from the premises of the Islamabad High Court. Protestors, allegedly belonging to the PTI went berserk, setting fire to property, including the residence of the Lahore Corps Commander and public vehicles. Several people were killed, shot at by the army and police; hundreds wounded and thousands rounded up, now at undisclosed locations.

All major leaders have been arrested and cases have been filed against them. The military came out with probably the strongest worded statement ever, (except during 1971), pointing fingers at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Imran Khan and promised swift and sure punishment. Imran Khan was granted bail by the Supreme Court (SC) and this seemed to be the point at which the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and its component parties declared an all-out war against the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), staging a sit-in in front of the SC, amid making loud calls for the CJP to resign. This was on even as Islamabad was still under Section 144. No tear gas, no shelling, no shots… this is how easily the government broke its own laws. Those arrested are to be tried under the Army Act, a sure strategy to alienate the public even further. The democratic experience, fragile always, is now a sham.

Unlikely allies such as Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) maintained their unity over the past year, and are now demonstrating unprecedented confidence, speaking as one voice in their hatred for the PTI in general and Imran Khan in particular. Having developed a shared language, they continue to abuse and castigate Imran Khan, who has been compared with Altaf Hussain and the PTI openly called a militant group. Tactics are being used to give reasons to ban the party. This new found strength and bravado is in no small measure a direct consequence of public statements coming from the military.

Looking back at events that transpired since the PTI resigned en masse from the national, and provincial assemblies of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Punjab and the latter were dissolved in January, it is clear that the government had no intention of honouring the constitutional requirement of holding new elections within 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies. When two judges of the SC objected to the suo moto powers of the CJP as the latter took up the matter of delay in elections, the government and media houses supporting them transformed the debate into one of governance reforms of the SC. Dr. Pervez Hassan, the eminent advocate of the SC, writes that “…the government is openly defying the SC orders.. on grounds of extraneous matters; …. “the government’s defiance is untenable, mala fide and mischievous. It is an impermissible attempt at self-perpetuation… the ruling alliance is becoming the qabza group in Pakistan politics.”

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