By: Agha Haider Raza
Pakistan’s media airwaves have gone haywire over the spectacle that has emerged since renowned journalist, Hamid Mir, was shot at multiple times in Karachi a few weeks ago. In response to the audacious attack, Mir’s employer, GEO News openly hinted that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was responsible for the attempt on Mir’s life. As expected, the ISI sprung into action; flexing their muscles through the “independent” media and “civil society” by protesting against the allegations leveled by GEO News. Rather than using the unfortunate attack on Hamid Mir as an opportunity to engage in a frank discussion on the safety of journalists in Pakistan (deemed one of the world’s least safe place for journalists), this incident has opened a debate on the credibility of Pakistan’s first democratic transition and reignited long-standing tensions between the incumbent government and the country’s most powerful institution, the Pakistan Army. Using the bold attack on Hamid Mir as a springboard, Imran Khan is boycotting GEO News and has resorted to street protests to declare the sham of a democracy we have at present. Khan and his party claim that the general elections of 2013 were stolen from them via alleged rigging committed by the PML-N and GEO News and after exhausting all appropriate avenues have decided to utilize there street power. This is not the time. What the country really needs are its politicians to embolden and strengthen Pakistan’s fragile Parliament by passing electoral reform and acting on the discrepancies in the last election to avoid repeating similar mistakes in the future.
Despite publically accepting the result of the general elections from his hospital bed in May 2013, forming the state government in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and being members of the National Assembly, PTI has now seemed to have woken up from its proverbial hospital bed and decided to use street power to “establish democracy” in Pakistan. Why now, especially when there is friction between the military and the present government? Al-Gore lost in 2000 against Bush, he went to the courts and accepted an unfavorable verdict decision graciously when Bush was declared victorious. It’s time Imran Khan follows suit.
Rather than showing solidarity with the people of Pakistan and respecting their mandate, the PTI has decided to further shove the PML-N in a corner. Yes, PTI has used disclaimers in their narrative that they had not accepted rigging in the elections and they have tried legal avenues, but the question remains – why not use the power and supremacy of the Parliament to address grievances rather than favoring the very forces that have caused nearly 35 years of military dictatorship in Pakistan?
Ironically claimed by all political parties, it is an open secret that rigging was committed in the elections. But for the sake of sustainability and the strengthening of Pakistan’s weak democratic institutions, the PML-N was able to form the Federal government, while respecting the PPP mandate in Sindh, the PTI mandate in KPK and Baloch Nationalists in Baluchistan. In order to address all allegations of rigging, all candidates and parties can approach the election tribunals, judicial courts and the Election Commission of Pakistan.
In order to create his political base, Khan shifted right of the political spectrum. Portraying himself as a conservative politician, Khan’s political playbook had him going for PML-N’s jugular. He lambasted them for being a “friendly opposition” whenever PML-N and PPP attempted to work in a bipartisan manner while implying that the role of the opposition should be akin to that of the ‘party of no’ on all issues when working with the treasury benches.
Given the global economic meltdown and the economic loss Pakistan has suffered due to terrorism, no one was led to believe that the county’s economic problems would be solved over night with a new party in power. Playing politics, Imran Khan has consistently castigated the PML-N government for not improving the economy, despite macroeconomic indicators, the IMF and World Bank acknowledging PML-Ns positive economic policies. While many politicians don’t pay heed to their polling numbers, in the latest Gallup poll, Imran Khan is the only national leader to have seen a decline in his approval ratings. Maybe a new narrative is required for the rapidly receding popularity of PTI?
At a time when civil-military relations are not at an equilibrium, Imran Khan and his party should be standing tall beside the country’s nascent democratic institutions. There is a time for playing politics, but given the fact that the PML-N is the federal government for the next four years with no midterm elections, PTI must live up to the Naya Pakistan (New Pakistan) they promised rather than dragging the country through the same politicking that has paved the way for military dictatorships. It is time the PTI and most importantly, Imran Khan get off the media talk shows, respect the mandate of the people of Pakistan and carry out there work as legislators in the legislature for the betterment of Pakistan.