Mercury rising

Published May 27, 2024

SHOULD we expect a political heatwave this summer? The climate seems to be rather conducive to it. The two largest parties are once again on the warpath, with a slew of troubling developments precluding any hopes for the long-awaited normalisation of political temperatures.

In Lahore, the chief minister of Punjab has approved the registration of fresh cases against the PTI leadership, this time for “building a hateful narrative against state institutions”. It appears that the PML-N government will rely on the odious defamation bill it recently passed in the Punjab Assembly to go after its chief rival. The provincial information minister, speaking on the matter, explained to the media that the Punjab home department had provided information establishing that PTI leaders were “spreading mischief inside and outside jail”. She claimed that the party was “spreading hate as part of organised propaganda” to incite the people, destabilise the country and inculcate hatred against its institutions.

Was this anticipated? Unfortunately, yes. Meanwhile, in Islamabad, the PTI has been engaged in a bitter confrontation with the Capital Development Authority, which this week razed part of the party’s central secretariat and later sealed the building under an anti-encroachment drive after issuing several warnings. Twenty-six individuals, including a PTI leader, were subsequently booked by Islamabad Police on various charges, including terrorism, allegedly for violently resisting the CDA operation.

Understandably, the party is incensed by its relentless victimisation; disappointingly, it has yet to show any remorse for its own culpability in similar targeting of its opponents in the past. It has also seemed unwilling to mend fences with its opponents, having set strict preconditions for any negotiations that are unlikely to be accepted in the current situation. It seems in no hurry to see matters resolved and appears to be hoping that the crises engulfing the government will eventually bring about its downfall.

These are all worrying reminders that political stability, a prerequisite for the economic stability desperately sought by the inflation-weary citizenry, remains as elusive as ever. With the budget almost upon us and the IMF making it clear it will not consider extending more loans till its painful requisites are met, the months ahead are likely to see civil discontent explode once again as summer electricity bills and new taxation measures land on the largely unsuspecting public.

The country seems to be at the end of its tether. At some point, its leaders need to ask themselves: what is the point of fighting if ashes are all that will be left to rule over after they are done? Each of them is equally responsible for the deep pit Pakistan seems to have fallen into. It is time they stopped digging deeper and started thinking about how to get it out.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2024

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