THERE was no need for the crisis we are now seeing develop overnight. The vote of no-confidence is a straightforward constitutional procedure which can be processed by summoning the National Assembly, tabling the motion and having the members go through the act of voting. The outcome of this voting would determine whether the House continues with its present leader or gets to elect a new one.

Such are the stakes, however, that this fairly linear process is now being twisted and mangled in an attempt to force an outcome of choice.

In this respect, Speaker of the National Assembly Asad Qaiser is playing a role that will not be favourable to his legacy. Not only has he made no attempt to disguise his partisanship, he has actually flaunted it with obvious glee. This has undermined his standing as a moderator, but perhaps more significantly, it has made him interpret the laws and rules governing this procedure with such creative spin that the matter has now gone to the courts.

His act of summoning the session of the National Assembly after the stipulated two weeks, and his explanation for why he has done so, is weak at best. The dates of the OIC conference were set a long time ago and the NA speaker could have easily made alternative arrangements for holding the session if he really wanted to. He could also have called the session a few days before the OIC conference. The fact that he chose not to do so, and that he had to resort to such unconvincing arguments, goes to show that the real reason is more political than he would like to admit.

That said, it is a bit much for the opposition to be demanding that Article 6 be applicable to him for this act. No doubt, the speaker has taken undue leeway with the requirements of the Constitution, but ascribing treason to him smacks of political partisanship in the extreme. Neither does it help the already tense situation. In fact, it exacerbates the tension and proves that the battle lines are now set.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is fuelling this hardening of positions by resorting to harsh language and threatening posturing. In his last public speech, he took matters to a dangerous level when he said that the children of PTI ticket holders aligning with the opposition would face ridicule in schools. Such words can trigger reactions among his supporters that can easily lead to harassment of the children in schools. This is absolutely unacceptable and the prime minister should walk back from such rhetoric before this leads to any unfortunate consequences.

It is sad to see the country’s politics once again going into crisis mode as politicians are unable to solve their problems and are yet again forcing the courts to wade into political waters.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2022

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