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JI chief’s allegations

April 24, 2018

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THE latest revelations have come from somewhat unexpected quarters, but the details are in line with what has been alleged and suspected since the farcical election. The controversy over the election of Chairman of the Senate Sadiq Sanjrani is refusing to die down — and rightly so. The latest individual to come forward and publicly cast aspersions on the fairness and integrity of the vote that saw Mr Sanjrani catapulted from political obscurity to one of the highest constitutional offices in the land is none other than Sirajul Haq, emir of the Jamaat-i-Islami and ally of the PTI in the KP government. The JI chief has claimed that ahead of the crucial vote in the Senate, he was lobbied by KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak to vote for a candidate for Senate chairman who Mr Khattak claimed would be nominated by powerful forces outside the PTI. At the time Mr Khattak approached the JI chief, the former was unaware of even the identity of the candidate for Senate chairman that the PTI had committed to backing.

The JI chief’s claim has been obliquely denied by Mr Khattak and angrily denounced by a PTI national spokesperson, but it should not be easily dismissed. In the run-up to the election of the Senate chairman and on the day of the vote itself, it was apparent that electoral politics alone could not explain the strange coalition that came together to defeat the PML-N candidate and elevate a political non-entity to constitutional high office. The seemingly manipulated events in the Senate came after a coup inside the PML-N in the Balochistan Assembly installed another previous political non-entity as chief minister of the province. Taken together, it has appeared that anti-democratic forces ventured deep into the political terrain to engineer electoral outcomes that have seriously undermined the democratic process. It is not a matter of the PML-N losing out. Democracy is also about the integrity of the process, and it is fairly clear that extra-parliamentary forces encouraged, directed and facilitated a particular outcome.

What can be done? At this stage, at the very least a parliamentary or judicial inquiry is merited. Arriving at the truth will not be easy given that a number of parliamentary parties backed Mr Sanjrani and virtually all parties have alleged corruption in the election of senators. But it is necessary to draw a line and try and protect the democratic order. Even by historical standards, Mr Sanjrani’s election and the allegations swirling around the voting in the provincial assemblies are deeply troubling. The democratic transition is a decade old, but the events of March may have done more to undermine the democratic process than a number of other anti-democratic episodes over the last decade. The truth should be made known to the public. Sirajul Haq and others should lead the way.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2018