Not the right venue for protest


PML-N’s stance as unconstitutional as Qadri’s

One is bound to be worried about the health of the system when parliamentarians take to marches and sit-ins instead of using the constitutional platform available to them to air their grievances. It is ironic that while the PML-N rejected Tahirul Qadri’s march for getting his demands accepted through pressure, it is itself following in his footsteps. The opposition would have been justified in doing so if it was being steamrollered in the National Assembly by the government which is not the case. The issues being raised revolves around the powers allotted to the EC. The 20th amendment was passed unanimously in the NA after lengthy consultations with the opposition. Speaking on the floor of the House, a jubilant Nisar Ali Khan had claimed, “The authority being given to it (i.e., Election Commission) through the 20th amendment in the constitution has never been given to any election commission in the world.” From one extreme the Leader of the Opposition has gone to another now. He has joined a sit-in along with party members and allies “to express solidarity with the ECP and demand its empowerment to ensure free and fair general election”, as PML-N information secretary summarised the rationale for the protest.

The constitution does not give the power of transferring government officials to the EC. Yet the Leader of the Opposition has a long list of federal and provincial bureaucrats including heads of the FIA, PTV, Intelligence Bureau, Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, NADRA, PEMRA and even a number of ambassadors who the EC is being pressed to get transferred before the elections. The demand is as extra-constitutional and unjustified as the one by Qadri to include army and judiciary in consultations for the formation of the EC and the caretaker setup.

The PPP has delayed the talks with the opposition for the formation of a neutral caretaker setup for far too long. Caretaker chief ministers cannot be appointed in the Sindh and Balochistan as long as there is no agreement on leaders of the opposition in the two provinces. Long after their separation from the ruling alliance in Sindh, the ANP, PML-F and NPP MPAs were not provided seats on the opposition benches. Ignoring the strictures by SC, the PPP delayed the orderly replacement of the dysfunctional Raisani government finally endorsing the Governor’s rule. It needs now to urgently hold talks with the opposition to resolve these issues. In the absence of a consensus between the ruling alliance and the opposition, self serving formulas like the one advocated by the JUI-F will continue to be touted.