Breaking the deadlock

Published December 9, 2022

PRESIDENT Arif Alvi and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s recent tête-à-tête to figure out a way to break the political deadlock between the PDM and PTI is a welcome step, even if much still remains to be done before there can be any hope of a major breakthrough.

It may be recalled here that the two had also met late last month, shortly before the announcement of the new army chief, when speculation had been strong that the president may throw a spanner in the works and hold up the appointment using his powers.

That meeting appears to have been a fruitful one, as what had become a major political sticking point was ultimately overcome without new controversy or ugliness from either side. It would appear that the success of that earlier interaction has now given the two enough confidence to start talking on the other major issues on the table, and it is encouraging to note that both see a chance for its success.

According to President Alvi, Mr Dar, who has been acting as PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif’s personal representative, deliberated with him the various options on the table for both sides and promised to get back to him on certain suggestions after consultations with his party leaders.

The president, recounting the broad contours of the meeting in a TV interview, said the possibility of early elections was also discussed. Though he understandably wanted to remain circumspect about revealing what was discussed, it is quite clear what cards the PDM and PTI hold.

The PTI appears to be using the weakening economy as leverage and can continue to give the government grief till the end over any painful measures it takes for course correction. The PDM seems cognisant it cannot solve the economic crisis without damaging itself, but it also holds significant executive power as long as it is in the federal government and is unwilling to squander it by capitulating to the PTI. Therefore, we have its demand for dialogue without any conditions attached.

The economy is thus providing the grounds for the negotiation. Neither side can be blamed solely for where things stand at the moment, but both must acknowledge their role in precipitating the current crises. If, after that, they can jointly negotiate a course to guide the economy out of its current crises, we can hope for smooth sailing to the next election, whenever it is held.

If they do not, for whatever selfish reasons, they will be imperilling the well-being of this country’s citizens. It is time for both sides to show flexibility and realise that the future of more than 240m people is at stake. The PDM and PTI must come to a mutually acceptable arrangement over the path to the next elections and set new rules for their political engagement in the future.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2022

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