Starting over

Published March 1, 2024

THE four provincial assemblies and the National Assembly have now been sworn in.

Though rigging allegations and various election-related irregularities and illegalities have cast a dark shadow, these assemblies will represent the people as they oversee the next chapter of this country’s governance. There is no sugar-coating the fact that there are immense challenges before them, the realities of which will begin to dawn as the dust from the post-election chaos begins to settle.

The country is socially and politically fractured, its institutions in crisis, its coffers nearly empty, and its economy in a tailspin. The compact between its people and the state appears broken, its administrative apparatus seems to be malfunctioning, and its judiciary has never seemed as helpless as before.

Dependent on liquidity and capital injections from foreign lenders, Pakistan is in the unenviable position of being just a few missteps away from catastrophe.

Yet if there is one thing the country has demonstrated time and again, it is that its people’s will to endure is unconquerable. The citizenry will continue to hope that the men and women sworn in over the past week can steer the country back to stability and, hopefully, prosperity. Having taken their seats in their respective assemblies, they must now demonstrate that they are ready for the responsibility entrusted to them. The fate of millions depends on what path they take forward.

Given the difficult situation, both the government and opposition must resolve that their decisions will prioritise the public good over anything else. The government benches must realise that the public mood is extremely sensitive due to the unprecedented hardships the nation has suffered over the past two years.

It must get to work at once on ameliorating economic conditions. The opposition benches must realise that they will need to constructively guide the government, especially towards achieving common goals.

The question of legitimacy cannot be abandoned. Those who feel they were robbed of their mandate must continue their fight. They owe it not just to their voters but also to Pakistan’s struggling democracy that they pursue the righting of the wrongs committed against it.

However, the focus of all stakeholders should remain on what future they want for the people of Pakistan. Lawmakers should use their presence in the assemblies to advance their legislative agenda and ensure that present and past mistakes are not repeated in the future. Much has been learned from political misjudgements of the past decade.

The time has come for the political leadership to demonstrate it is ready to move on. Parliament remains the most important forum through which a political negotiation on what tomorrow should look like for the millions who call Pakistan home can be held. Let the politicians figure out a way forward.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2024

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