PTI and the system

  • Flexibility is the essence of democracy


The government pretended that it was trying to reach a deal with the Azadi March organisers supported by the opposition who have been protesting in Islamabad for the last nine days. A negotiating committee nominated by the PM and a two-member conciliation committee comprising the government’s PML-Q allies failed to end the impasse on account of the PTI leadership’s inflexible stance. What has complicated matters further is the campaign by the PTI’s advisers who continued to heap insults on the JUI-F chief and the opposition parties even when their negotiating teams were trying to reach a settlement. This has led Maulana Fazlur Rehman to give the PTI government two choices, the PM’s resignation or fresh elections within three months. After Sunday the opposition’s Rahbar Committee will announce a new strategy reportedly aimed at closing all major highways across Pakistan as a first step.

The PTI leadership has similarly failed to evolve a modus vivendi with the opposition parties inside Parliament. Instead of going for legislation through consensus building, it has decided to make laws by steamrollering the opposition. In a travesty of democracy, on Thursday the ruling party passed 11 bills in the National Assembly that included nine presidential ordinances within 30 minutes. Parliamentary norms require a debate on each of the bills to seek the opposition’s inputs and to remove any possible shortcomings after discussion from multiple angles. None of the bills had an urgency requiring immediate passage. Using the National Assembly as a rubber stamp deprives the system of a mechanism to rectify itself. Making the parliamentary opposition redundant could force it to take recourse to the streets to make its voice heard. Turning democracy into a system of formal gestures devoid of substance amounts to depriving the system of legitimacy in the eyes of the people.

After two elected governments completing their tenure one had hoped that the third one too would exhaust its mandated lifespan, handing over power in an orderly way to the next elected administration. The continuous disrespect for democratic norms on the part of the PTI creates doubts about an orderly transfer of power after the specified time limit.