Parliament Watch: The decision that turned celebrations into gloomPakistan
It couldn’t have come at a worse time for the ruling PML-N. It was busy celebrating the $46 billion Chinese investment and the good grades the IMF and international credit rating agencies gave it for building up the country’s foreign exchange reserves when the election tribunal dropped the bombshell of unseating Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique by ordering fresh polling in the Lahore constituency. The verdict ruined the party’s celebratory mood and turned it into a fighting mood.
And the boat of national politics, which had somewhat steadied after the smooth Senate elections and the return of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) to the National Assembly, finds itself in choppy waters again. Monday’s ruling of the election tribunal deepens uncertainty as tribunals have to decide challenges to three other constituencies, NA-110, NA-122 and NA-154, by the PTI. Then a Judicial Commission, formed after Imran Khan’s street agitation, is investigating the overall challenge to the genuineness of the 2013 general election.
No wonder the PML-N and PTI are yet again up in arms against each other, claiming vindication of their respective political stands. The tribunal ruling that set off the new round has blamed mismanagement by the returning and presiding officers for putting the validity of election in NA-125 in question. Both sides can interpret Monday’s ruling to their desire as the tribunal judge categorically exonerated Mr Saad Rafique of any wrongdoing as accused by his rival candidate, PTI’s Hamid Khan. However, de-seating of the railway minister, on whatever ground, has provided enough reason to the PTI to press ahead with its claim that similar flaws were commonplace in most of the constituencies in Punjab.
Still the legal battle is not yet finished. While the PML-N has decided to challenge the tribunal’s verdict in the Supreme Court, the PTI leaders is pinning its hopes on the soon to be declared result of its election petition in which Imran Khan has challenged the victory of Ayaz Sadiq, Speaker National Assembly, in NA-122.
Meanwhile, legal experts and political commentators are predicting that the eventual outcome in the case of the two constituencies - NA, 125 and 122 - will have huge impact on the national politics. It will also affect the ongoing proceedings of the three-member judicial commission now investigating whether May 2013 general elections were conducted in free and fair manner.
For instance, if the ruling PML-N manages to get the verdict in case of Mr Rafique reversed, establishing that it had nothing to do with the conduct of ROs and POs, the party will surely be better placed to defend itself in the judicial commission. Similarly, clearing of results by the election tribunal in the case of NA-122, will literally take wind out of the PTI’s sails.
Otherwise, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his party are facing long hot summer for their government with PTI breathing fire down its neck both inside and outside the parliament.
The two sides can already be seen entrenching themselves for a possible show down.
While announcing the PML-N’s decision to take Mr Saad Rafique’s case to the Supreme Court, Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal, accused the PTI of creating political instability by its calls for free and fair elections in the country. “Unhappy with the unprecedented economic recovery and massive Chinese investment, the PTI has yet again upped the ante against the government. He warned that the country cannot bear another PTI dharna,” the minister said.
On the other hand, for reasons best known to him, PTI chairman Imran Khan has been predicting 2015 as an election year. Now, with Monday’s ruling of the tribunal, he believes that his charge that ROs played key role in bringing the PML-N into power have been proven true. Therefore, new election is the only remedy available to the people of Pakistan to have genuine government at the top. This week addressing a rally in Kohistan (KP) he even asked his party workers to get ready for new elections.
A senior government official agreed that until the judicial commission completes its proceedings into the alleged rigging in the last general election, the overall political situation of the country will remain ‘hot-blooded’. Hoping a positive outcome for the PML-N, the official said that “by constituting the judicial commission both sides took a gamble. Only time will tell who bet correctly.”
“Of course, the PML-N leadership is downcast following the de-seating of the railway minister,” said a senior PTI leader commenting on the fast unfolding political situation in the country. “But if tomorrow the judicial commission finds no proofs to our claims of rigging, we will be in for soul searching and the task of building a harder campaign against the government for the 2018 general election.”
Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2015
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