Acrimony worsens

Published March 11, 2022

THE vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan has unleashed a fresh wave of political instability in the country. Ever since the opposition parties submitted the document to the Speaker, National Assembly Office, there has been a flurry of activity that is gaining in intensity with each passing hour.

It is also fuelling a bitter and nasty war of words between the government and opposition camps as evidenced by one press conference after another. The charges being made and the accusations being hurled at the opponents from these platforms range from corruption to anti-national activities. The situation is expected to deteriorate and could reach ominous levels if this matter drags on.

What is making matters even more complicated is the concern for the physical safety of the parliamentarians. The police action inside the Parliament Lodges in Islamabad on Thursday evening and the arrest of elected JUI-F members indicate that the situation is deteriorating swiftly. The opposition says they are worried that the government will use force to block the participation in the proceedings of its members who may vote against the prime minister.

The government on the other hand is now peddling a strange interpretation of the floor-crossing clause saying that a party leader can have his members disqualified on charges of defection even before they have actually crossed the floor. It is a bizarre position to take but even cabinet members are now advocating it.

Read: No-trust move: Can the NA speaker dismiss votes of dissident lawmakers?

The speaker has two weeks within which he has to call the session for the vote of no-confidence. It is now getting clear that any delay in summoning the Assembly would invite further chaos and threaten the stability of the country. The government claims it faces no danger from the opposition and has its majority intact. If that is indeed the case then it has no reason to delay the voting.

The vote of no-confidence is a constitutional process and it must be allowed to proceed as per the law. Both sides must do everything they can to de-escalate the situation and follow the laid-down procedure to the last detail. No party head can stop any of his members from voting; doing so would be a travesty. The country is suffering from this instability and the stock market is reflecting this anxiousness. The speaker has the responsibility to live up to the demands of his high office and not aggravate the situation by displaying extreme partisanship.

History will not be kind to those who fail to rise to the occasion and do the right thing. There is therefore a dire need to expedite the proceedings and halt the use of strong-arm tactics. There is too much riding on a smooth resolution of the issue and the country cannot afford another blow to the already weak system. The nation awaits with bated breath.

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2022

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