Can PTI deliver on its promises?

  • An uphill task

The elections 2018 were probably the most controversial exercise for electing the public representatives in the electoral history of Pakistan as the veracity and fairness of their outcome has not only been challenged by all the political parties, except the winning party, but there was a permeating belief before the elections that a process of pre-poll rigging had been initiated in favour of a particular party denying level playing field to the other contestants, particularly the PML-N .          

A report released by PILDAT during the first week of June also painted a very bleak picture in the context of the ensuing elections. It maintained that the pre-election process in the country was not fair. The agency based its assessment on the perception that the establishment was not neutral in the electoral process and the NAB and courts also were not impartial. The report also said that it was increasingly evident that curbs were being clamped on the media by limiting its ability to function as a free and independent entity. If true that did not augur well for the future of democracy in this land of the pure. Political analysts also smelt something sinister happening behind the scenes to manipulate the results of the elections through pre-poll rigging. Eminent lawyers and political commentators have also not given a fairness certificate to the elections after the results were unraveled.

Nevertheless the proponents of the view that worst kind of democracy was far better than a benign dictatorship or any other form of coercive government, including me, would like to see the democratic process moving forward. It is an undeniable reality that the elections have further accentuated the political polarisation and animosity between the major political rivals and in the prevailing circumstances it would indeed be very difficult for PTI to govern smoothly. However it is encouraging to note that all the opposition parties have decided to become part of the parliament and fight their battle in a democratic and legal way abandoning the course of open confrontation to destabilise the democratic process.

The PTI, which is likely to form governments in the center, Punjab and KPK as per the emerging portents faces an uphill task as the biggest challenge for the party would be the lofty promises that it has made to the people which in certain cases are un-implementable and too ambitious to be real in the context of the ground realities. Imran Khan undoubtedly is a charismatic personality and a popular leader in his own right but that would not be enough to carry the day. He will have to deliver on those promises as he would have no breathing space or cause for complacency in view of a very strong opposition in the parliament and legislative assembly of Punjab.

The PML-N supported creation of Bahawalpur and Seraiki provinces and the formation of a national commission to take up demands for carving out new federating units out of other provinces as well

The first and the foremost challenge for Imran would be to deliver on his promise of making South Punjab a separate province in the first hundred days of his government as announced by him before the elections. The creation of a new province would first of all require amendment in Article 1 of the constitution titled ‘The Republic and Its territories’ which will reduce representation of present Punjab in the National Assembly. It would also entail reduction in the seats of existing Punjab provincial Assembly which may even create a difficult situation for PTI in regards to survival of its governments in the Center and Punjab as it would necessitate re-election for the legislature of the newly created province as well as the seats of the National Assembly allocated to it in the new arrangement.

The creation of a new province would also require changes in the composition of the national and provincial assemblies through amendments in Article 51 which describes the composition of the National Assembly and Article 106 regarding constitution of the provincial assemblies. Other Articles that will have to be amended are Article 59 regarding composition of Senate where every province has equal representation, Article 175-A which deals with the appointment of judges to the Supreme Courts, High Courts and the Federal Shariat Court, Article 208 which deals with the composition of the Election Commission of Pakistan where the new province will also have to be represented by a member from it raising the strength of the ECP to five from the existing four.

The foregoing amendments will have to be carried out through the parliament. But before the parliament moves on the subject the provincial assembly of the Punjab will have to approve the creation of the new province by two thirds majority. The PTI does not have that majority available to it in the Punjab Assembly. Even in the parliament it does not have two thirds majority with all the support of its allies to carry out those amendments.

In view of the foregoing realities the move by the PTI to create a new province of South Punjab seems impossible unless through a political dialogue with the PML-N and PPP a consensus can be built in that regard. The creation of a separate province of South Punjab has been on the political chess board of the country for quite some time and the PPP and PML-N have had their own views on the subject.

The PPP government even formed a parliamentary commission in 2012 headed by former senator Farhatullah Babar to draft a constitutional amendment bill seeking creation of a new province called ‘Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab’ comprising three southern divisions and two western district of Punjab. The move did not materialize as the PML-N which was the main opposition party in the center and ruling party in Punjab boycotted the proceedings of the commission declaring that it would not accept its recommendation. It accused the PPP of bulldosing the parliamentary process required for creation of new province just to gain political advantage.

The PML-N supported creation of Bahawalpur and Seraiki provinces and the formation of a national commission to take up demands for carving out new federating units out of other provinces as well, particularly the Hazara province out of KPK.

In the prevailing circumstances the PTI may not be able deliver on its promise of a new province. The PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry was right on the money when he said that the biggest challenge for the party would be the fulfillment of the promises that it has made with the people.


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