Fears of violence

Published March 14, 2022

IN a political milieu, where everyone holds strong beliefs and opinions, it is but natural that any attempt to remove a party and its leader from power — even through a constitutional process — will stir up passions and controversies. Thus, it is not surprising to see the prime minister and other PTI politicians disparaging the leadership of the opposition political parties day in and day out since the announcement of the latter’s plans to try and oust the government through a vote of no-confidence.

The bitterness is increasing by the minute since the submission of the motion on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Imran Khan, and his close elected and unelected aides, using indecent and often threatening language against the top leadership of the opposition. The fear is that this acrimony might intensify in the run-up to the vote and the slurs escalate into violence against opposition lawmakers as well as PTI dissidents suspected of siding with Mr Khan’s opponents.

Several ministers, including Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, have already sounded warnings to party dissidents that PTI workers would surround their homes (to prevent them from voting on the motion). Now the PTI is planning a large rally outside parliament a day before voting on the resolution.

The opposition is thinking of responding in kind on the same day, thus fuelling fears of clashes between their respective workers. If this happens, it will be disastrous for politics and the democratic system. What took place at the Parliament Lodges on Thursday will seem trivial by comparison. If there is a time to de-escalate, it is now.

Editorial: Turning Parliament Lodges into a battlefield for hours has only further damaged PTI govt’s public image

Indeed, there is nothing wrong about engaging in a robust political fight. However, the onus to defuse tensions that could lead to violence lies with the ruling party. To call a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister is a constitutional and democratic right of the opposition parties, and should not be interfered with in any manner. It is the responsibility of the government and the speaker of the National Assembly to ensure that all lawmakers, whether they belong to the opposition or ruling party, are protected and facilitated in casting their vote according to their conscience. In case some PTI members vote against their party leader, they can be proceeded against according to the law. Threats of violence only betray the nervousness of the rulers.

The combined opposition should also stay away from entering a show-of-strength contest even if the ruling party does not call off its planned rally. It has made its choice and filed the motion to achieve its political target. If it has to show its ‘strength’, it should do so inside the National Assembly on the day of voting on the motion. The country is already passing through one of its most painful economic crises and cannot afford further instability that invariably accompanies aggravated tensions.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2022

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