That’s the thing about vengeful democracy. It has habit of coming back and biting one where the sun doesn’t shine. The prime minister was dealt a timely reminder of this when the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) shot down his tit-for-tat references filed against Imran Khan.
The disqualification reference filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders Imran Khan and Jehangir Tareen was thrown out by ECP due to lack of substantial evidence. The reference was decided beyond the stipulated timeframe of three months due to deliberate delays on part of both parties. PML-N has decided to challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The moral advantage at this stage goes to Khan, who has been relentless in his hounding of the PM over Panamagate. Yet fortunately for the latter, the question of morality has no place in Pakistani politics. This is something that the PPP — the architect of vengeful democracy — knows only too well. With an eye on next year’s elections, it is focusing firmly on making a return to the Punjab. The PPP knows how to talk big. It also knows how to keep quiet when the time comes to deliver. Its U-turn on military tribunals is a case in point. At the end of last year, party chairman Bilawal Bhutto promised to bring Nawaz to his knees unless he conceded to four key PPP demands. Top of the list was the passage of the Panama Papers Inquiry Bill 2016. Without this the PPP, Bilawal warned, would refuse to go the Supreme Court. Given the lack of transparency in Pakistani politicking the citizenry might well be forgiven for wondering if this is some sort of well- choreographed game from childhood times of yesteryear. And that each time the music stops — the one left holding the parcel must do the other’s bidding. In this latest reinvention — it becomes a strictly two-party game.
True, the PPP did submit its bill and rushed it through the Senate, where it enjoys a majority. Now the burden falls upon the National Assembly, returning the advantage to the PMLN. More than likely this will result in going back to the drawing board. For all its talk about Panamagate, the PPP has yet to play its due role as the opposition party. Beyond running the government and maximising its electoral gains, the PML-N bears the responsibility to foster democratic values in the country. Questioning the wealth of ruling family is the right of opposition parties and the public. PMLN instead of politicking should set an example of open, transparent accountability process even if it leads to short-term losses. Needless to say, Pakistan’s political parties have to build trust in the democratic process. Given the way serious issues of corruption, tax evasion and accountability have been handled, meaningful change seems unlikely. *