Cover Story

The War Within

We all are well-aware what is happening and how fast Pakistan is getting mired in an inexorable situation. However, the fundamental question is how are we going to come out of it and develop attributes of a normal nation?

By Lt. Gen. (R) Talat Masood | May 2023

Pakistan is no stranger to facing a crisis but the one that it is presently facing is no less in its complexity that led to the breakup of the country in 1971. The major political parties are literary at war with each other, making a mockery of democracy. The opposition leader Imran Khan whose party the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has a broad support base refuses to engage with the leadership of the Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDM), an amalgam of several major and minor political parties, led by the Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) as its junior partner.

Until recently, PTI has been agitating mostly on the roads and in the media demanding that elections be held within three months of the dissolution of the provincial and national assemblies. Its’ demand is fair and is accordance with the dictates of the Constitution. But the ruling PDM alliance is pursuing dilatory tactics knowing that its chances of winning are remote.

The undeterred use of violence against voices of dissent has become a common feature and was recently demonstrated by the government against the opposition leaders. The PTI when in power has been equally harsh with its opponents. The leadership has yet to develop the culture of presenting their differing views in parliament in a civilized manner and developing a consensus on major issues. The National Assembly and the Senate happen to be the prestigious forums for formulating and passing legislation and guiding the government on economic, security and foreign affairs related issues. However, both forums are being mostly used for invective and personal point-scoring. Important financial or foreign policy related legislation that demands thoughtful and researched discussion hardly gets that serious attention. In short, anarchy prevails in the country where every institution is fighting against the other and amongst itself, while the people watch as hapless spectators.

In essence, the genesis of this crisis is rooted in years of flawed policies of successive governments. It has its origins in Pakistan’s weak democratic culture and traditions. At the time of the Partition, there was no political party that had its roots in all the five provinces. Balochistan was not even a province. For years the country’s politicians were unable to formulate a constitution. Political leaders and institutional heads had a weak commitment to democracy, looking for opportunity to grab power. They spent more time in personalized rhetoric than forming and implementing policy on major national issues or addressing the grievances of the masses. It was the ceaseless pursuit of the Quaid, M. A. Jinnah for a separate homeland that created favourable conditions for the creation of Pakistan.

The other major state institutions have equally failed in coming up to the expectations of the people. The judiciary has given judgements in collusion with other state institutions that violate the fundamentals of the Constitution. Even as of now it stands deeply divided on fundamental issues and gives an impression of being politicized. Not surprising that the lawyer community is sharply divided on political and provincial lines and spends considerable time agitating on various national and institutional matters, while litigation cases keep piling up, hurting public interests.

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