PRIME MINISTER Imran Khan may have received the vote of confidence but it does not resolve the major issues that the ruling PTI faces. By obtaining 178 votes on Saturday in the National Assembly, six more than the simple majority required, the prime minister has settled the issue of his parliamentary numbers. Perhaps he considered this to be the best way to deal with the shock defeat of his finance minister, Hafeez Sheikh, in the Senate polls. However, this vote of confidence may pale in front of the mounting difficulties staring his government in the face.

One of the most serious problems is his newfound sparring with the ECP. In his speech after obtaining the vote, the prime minister once again criticised the ECP and suggested, rather bizarrely, that the electoral body should get a secret briefing from the ‘agencies’ to understand how much money had been used in the Senate elections. By repeatedly accusing the ECP of not doing its job, Mr Khan is creating unnecessary tension with a constitutional body that has done well to take firm action against the electoral manipulation that was witnessed in the Daska by-election.

In the Senate elections too, the ECP has followed the orders of the Supreme Court and organised the elections through a secret ballot that is mandated by the Constitution. The government would be well advised to avoid a confrontation with the ECP as part of its political narrative-building.

What it should focus on instead is to bring about a comprehensive set of electoral reforms by forging a consensus among all parties in parliament. This is easier said than done but it is the only way to ensure an election that is acceptable to all. The prime minister has announced that the government would bring in electronic voting machines but this would be a hollow move if it is not part of a larger reform package that is supported by all stakeholders. The PTI government needs to review its go-it-alone policy.

This may have become even more difficult after the unpleasant incident on Saturday when PTI workers assaulted senior members of the PML-N team, including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb. The incident has raised political temperatures, as well as the level of polarisation, and will make it even more improbable that the government and the opposition can forge any semblance of a working relationship.

The situation is grim. The government may need to initiate some confidence-building measures if it wants a smoother functioning of its mandate for the remaining two and half years of its term. All indications are that this may be difficult for the government to do. The system is overheating and can trigger a crisis on the smallest of pretexts. Sanity must prevail before it is too late.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2021

Opinion

Missing I.A. Rehman’s wisdom
18 Apr 2021

Missing I.A. Rehman’s wisdom

Does the state of Pakistan, all institutions included, have the political will to address the runaway intolerance in society and
Ostrich approach
18 Apr 2021

Ostrich approach

The logic of blocking social media to contain protests is flawed.
Wings of mediation
18 Apr 2021

Wings of mediation

ADR benefits could ensure the expeditious settlement of tax disputes.
Banning Mr Rizvi
17 Apr 2021

Banning Mr Rizvi

Sooner than later, fanatics start to pull their own strings.

Editorial

18 Apr 2021

More cabinet changes

PRIME MINISTER Imran Khan has reshuffled his cabinet yet again in what is obviously another attempt to shore up his...
Blocking social media
Updated 18 Apr 2021

Blocking social media

FOR four hours this week, all social media platforms in the country were shut down, a measure the government said ...
18 Apr 2021

Peasant rights in Sindh

IN a seminar held in Nawabshah recently, the Sindh Human Rights Commission and Hari Welfare Association reiterated a...
17 Apr 2021

Pak-India mediation

QUESTIONS had been swirling about what and who has prompted the latest detente between Pakistan and India. Now, it...
17 Apr 2021

Energy exploration

SOME exploration and production companies want the government to prioritise offshore exploration — a high-risk...
17 Apr 2021

Professor’s removal

IN a step that will go far in sending a message of reassurance to female students and academic staff in ...