One step at a time?

Editorial Board
Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

The National Assembly (NA) session will begin at 10am today after the NA Secretariat issued a notification for the maiden session of the legislature on Wednesday. Slowly, the new governments in the centre and in the provinces are taking shape – despite the many obvious elephants commandeering the room. Yesterday, the newly elected members of the Balochistan Assembly and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly were sworn in. However, the KP Assembly session began after a delay of over an hour due to the ruckus caused by PTI workers. And this was no ordinary ruckus. PTI workers threw a shoe and a ‘lota’ at PML-N female lawmaker Sobia Shahid when she entered holding up a watch (no doubt a reference to Imran Khan). They also chanted abusive and sexist slogans at her, calling her the most vile names. Some have pointed out the irony of doing this on a day Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz went up to PTI CM candidate Rana Aftab in the Punjab Assembly and said that her doors will always be open for opposition members.

Pakistan desperately needs a break from toxic politics and move forward towards healing. In the last decade, we have seen political rivalry turning into personal enmity. Much of the blame for this lies with PTI founder Imran Khan and his brand of politics. On Wednesday, Mian Nawaz Sharif talked about how he had extended a hand of reconciliation to Imran when Sharif was the prime minister but that this gesture was never accepted. Even when Shehbaz Sharif was the Leader of the Opposition during Imran’s tenure as PM, he had offered the PTI to sign a Charter of Economy together despite his brother and niece’s imprisonment. Political experts had pointed out even back then that Imran as PM should not be so antagonistic towards the opposition and now that he is in power, he should be more reconciliatory. Unfortunately, the PTI’s tenure did not shy away from political vendetta and point-scoring, leading to new heights of political polarization in Pakistani society.

However, now that the PTI will be in power in KP, the PML-N in Punjab, the PPP in Sindh and a coalition government in Balochistan, it is important for the PDM and its allies to bring the temperature down. Experts say that the PDM is doing this, with Maryam and Shehbaz all talking about politics of reconciliation but the ball is in the PTI’s court once again. It was the PTI that refused to engage with the PPP in government formation in the centre and it is the PTI that has written a letter to the IMF, taking an approach that seems far from a reconciliatory one. While the PTI’s stance is that it has taken an aggressive approach because of irregularities in the elections and its mandate has been stolen, this path the party is on is disruptive and destructive instead of restrained and mature. Nothing good can come from this. There is still time to course correct and pursue legal cases about the elections on the one hand and on the other play a constructive role in politics and parliament. Whether the PTI pays any heed to such sane advice is of course a different matter altogether. But we need sanity. It is time to move forward.