Disqualification question

Editorial Board
Thursday, Feb 09, 2023

In a departure from years of mantra-building and sloganeering, PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi has now gone on record to say – in an interview to a TV journalist – that what happened with Mian Nawaz Sharif was unconstitutional. And what was he referring to? Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification as a consequence of the Panama case. During the interview, Qureshi said that no democratic mind would accept someone [in power] being removed unconstitutionally. One might wonder at what prompted this sudden change of heart. That too was sort of answered by Qureshi who said Nawaz has not learnt lessons from what happened with him and will have a different view on the same matter for others. Per most political observers, all this seems to be an indication that even the PTI may be finding it hard to deny the possibility of Imran Khan being disqualified in one of the cases the PTI chairman is facing. It would be a refreshing shift in stance were it not for the fact that even now the PTI is not saying that Nawaz’s disqualification be reversed (if it is unconstitutional as their own party senior has admitted). How is it that what happened to Nawaz was wrong now that there is a looming disqualification threat against Imran – but Nawaz is expected to accept his lifetime disqualification but not support Imran’s imminent disqualification, and in fact oppose it?

The political class needs to understand the goose and gander equality debate: expecting one political leader to overlook years of political persecution – incarceration, manipulated elections, and the ignominy of being branded ‘corrupt’ – may be asking for too much civility. But that is where we are: a democratic process would make allowances for robust opposition politics, without resort to political victimization. Tempting though it may be, given the years of wilderness faced by most leaders of the PML-N, succumbing to reverse victimization will not help anyone. As for the issue of Imran’s disqualification, the irony of suddenly realizing that such methods of disqualifying political leaders are unconstitutional will not be lost on anyone. But if there is a step forward to make amends, that would be a welcome change from the years of political polarization that have haunted this country – in particular in the last 10 months. The courts too now seem to have rethought Article 62(1)(f).

In any case, it would not be wrong to think that even a reversal of Nawaz’s disqualification or the disqualification of Imran will hardly help provide a level playing field to the PML-N. Politics comes with its own set of ethics-bending compulsions but the past few years of the country’s politics saw a complete breakdown in political civility and even any pretence at camouflaging witch-hunts of political rivals. This cycle must end now. For that to happen, instead of pointless ‘Jail Bharo’ movements, an across-the-aisle reconciliation movement would be far more effective.