Faulty narrative

Published March 15, 2022

AS the country braces for another political crisis, it is becoming increasingly clear that the government is doing precious little to calibrate its intensity. In fact, if the statements of the ministers and advisers are anything to go by, the ruling party looks to be increasing the political temperature.

At the heart of this turmoil is the upcoming vote of no-confidence and the visible tension in the PTI camp as the numbers game looks more in favour of the opposition. The danger is that the government may take steps that could inject complications into what is a fairly straightforward constitutional process.

Fearing that a significant number of his own MNAs might be ready to vote against Prime Minister Imran Khan, cabinet ministers have been peddling a strange logic according to which the National Assembly speaker can disqualify such members even before they vote, or bar them from voting. He can do neither. Yet such is the confusion being spread by seemingly responsible people that the ruling party and its supporters have internalised this misplaced logic as narrative. Legal experts have clarified that every MNA’s right to vote is protected by the Constitution and he or she cannot be stopped from exercising this right.

The disqualification clause is equally clear. If the member crosses the floor by casting the vote against their party, they are liable to be disqualified. If he or she is fine with taking this risk, that too is a right that can be exercised. For the ruling party to mangle this simple process by peddling wrong interpretations is not only unfortunate, it is also dangerous if it can lead to obstructing a constitutionally valid process.

Even more dangerous is the PTI’s decision to hold a rally at D-Chowk a day before the voting. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has issued a statement that can be construed as a warning to the MNAs planning to take part in the vote of no-confidence. He said all those going to parliament will have to make their way through this crowd of PTI supporters and return the same way after casting their votes. The PM’s aide Shahbaz Gill has also said something equally disturbing. He said photos of those voting against the PM would be placed in their cities and PTI supporters will garland them with shoes.

Read: D-Chowk picked as first war front: PTI plans power show to counter no-trust move

Such statements can easily incite violence at a time when tempers are running high and logic low. It is therefore advisable that the government de-escalate the situation by making it clear that it will not obstruct the vote of no-confidence and follow the letter and spirit of the law. It should also desist from using incendiary language that can incite passions. There is no harm in holding a rally as long as it does not affect the proceedings of parliament.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2022

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