‘The real or presumed assurances’

With astonishing thick skin of hardened politicians, (wanted to use another word, but guess yourself please), the eleven-party ruling alliance led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif completely disregarded the humiliation it had endured only a day before.

 Instead of cribbing about the shame it had suffered on ‘day after,’ the government rather kept cunningly focused on the future. In the name of “electoral reforms”, it rushed to overturn the law ensuring the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) during forthcoming elections.

With obsessive zeal, the Imran government had literally bulldozed the idea of employing those machines. And doing this never cared to take other stakeholders on board, including the Election Commission, which kept explaining, in writing, that it needed a lot of time and dry rehearsals to feel confident regarding the use of EVMs.

The amendments, hurriedly passed Thursday also dropped the idea of facilitating overseas Pakistanis to exercise their right to vote while staying put at their homes or workplaces in foreign countries. The Election Commission had been pleading that it was not equipped with the latest tools of digital voting to ensure the same.

Objections and reservations, expressed regarding the above mentioned issues mostly sounded justified. But like the Imran government, the one replacing him also failed to “reform” electoral laws, unilaterally enforced by the previous government, without taking all stakeholders on board.

On the same day, the government led by Shehbaz Sharif also amended the law that empowered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with draconian powers. In the name of locating and punishing the alleged “looters and plunderers faking as politicians,” General Musharraf had granted these powers to the NAB. The “governments of elected civilians” succeeding him never dared to touch them. After assuming the Office of Prime Minister in August 2018, Imran Khan rather felt self-pleasingly delighted by them. Almost all prominent leaders of the political parties opposing him had to spend many months of absolute humiliation in NAB’s investigation dungeons. He kept justifying them and rather projected the pains of his “NABBED” opponents, as the execution of his anti-corruption agenda.

Granting bails to many of the NAB victims, senior Judges had often acknowledged draconian sides of NAB-related laws. But they also kept pointing out that only the elected parliament enjoyed the authority of withdrawing them.

Rushing to amend not one but two important laws in one-sitting, the government clearly transmitted the message that it was increasingly reconciling with the possibility of earliest possible elections and it might not be able to complete its term until August 2023.

Most observers, for legitimate reasons, will prefer to believe that former prime minister Imran Khan had shaken up the government for smelling coffee and see the reality of early elections. Since removed through a vote of no confidence in the late night of April 9, he surely ignited rage among his diehard loyalists. Even large swathes of usually ‘apolitical types’ warmly listened to his claim that his removal was not a “local job.”

In fact Imran Khan keeps drumming, the United States of America felt uncomfortable with his nationalist positions. Washington first attempted to tame him by sending threatening messages. When he refused to budge, Washington consulted its playbook for “regime change.” A vote of no confidence was finally adopted as the best available strategy. Most members of the national assembly, who used to sit on opposition benches, had been “taking turns” in successive governments. While in power, Imran Khan keeps insisting, they ruthlessly abused their authority to amass millions like compulsive kleptocrats. With ill-gotten wealth, they bought pricey real estate in Britain etc.

Imran Khan also believes that the USA has diligently collected data that reveal everything about our “corrupt politicians.” Washington often uses the same to “blackmail” them. Similar tactic was employed to find movers and supporters of the vote of confidence, pushed against him in the national assembly of Pakistan. But he sounds doubly hurt while promoting the story that besides the usually corrupt politicians, some well-placed persons from our superior judiciary and national security outfits had also joined the conspiracy of toppling him.

After his fall, Imran Khan literally behaved like a wounded lion. With amazing zeal and consistency, he fervently employed all possible tools of message-promotion to hawk his story. He derides the government led by Shehbaz Sharif by calling it “imported”. He wants to extract its resignation through a populist movement

After building the momentum for it, he finally announced the intent of reaching Islamabad on May 25 with at least a crowd of 20 million. His loyalists kept loudly forewarning that if the government didn’t concede the earliest possible elections, the crowd coming to Islamabad would turn violent.

The government visibly took the threats of violence too seriously. In the name of preventive measures, it surely went for the overkill smacking of sheer panic. The building of a showdown eventually motivated the Supreme Court to intervene. Its three-member bench held three sittings in one day to seek some understanding and setting of ground rules between the government and the PTI. In the end, it passed the order that instead of reaching D-Chowk of Islamabad, considered “too sensitive” for having a large number of buildings associated with the state authority, Imran Khan should bring his followers to a different sector and after addressing them should leave the place, instead of staying put there in protest.

After naming and allocating the place, the Supreme Court also directed the government to remove all hurdles erected to deny entry to Islamabad from other cities. The government had no option but to obey the order. Taking advantage of its compliance, however, many groups of the zealot followers of Imran Khan started to sneak into the ‘Red Zone.’ The former prime minister didn’t convey the message of restraint to them; rather repeated the intent of reaching D-Chowk himself, come what may, and the government appeared extremely helpless.

After entering Islamabad, Imran Khan had not moved towards the spot designated for his rally by the Supreme Court. He preferred to keep crawling towards D-Chowk. Yet, he stopped a few yards before the “Red Zone,” otherwise sealed and heavily protected anyway.

After addressing the enraged crowd for around 30 minutes, he left the spot but after vowing that if the government didn’t announce the date of fresh election in the next “six days,” he would return again with another march and not leave the city unless his demands were met.

The government did make a feeble attempt to approach the Supreme Court Thursday morning by invoking the law related to the “contempt of court.” But the apex court preferred to show a large heart and expressed the desire that instead of indulging in do or die showdown, the partisans should start talking to each other with a forget and forgive approach.

Instead of waiting for things to cool down, the government decided to rush for amending the election and the NAB-connected laws Thursday morning. The diehard loyalists of Imran Khan strongly feel that the government rushed to amending these laws, after realising that it couldn’t prevent earliest possible elections. Some senior journalists, known for enjoying active access to Imran Khan are also claiming that instead of staying put close to the “Red Zone” after entering Islamabad, the former prime minister left the spot after “getting guaranteed assurances” that the government would announce the date of fresh election, “maximum by the end of the first week of coming June.”

I have no means to find out whether the story of “assurances” is real or invented. But if true, you and I don’t need to scratch our brains to imagine people, presumably transmitting assuaging “assurances” to Imran Khan. But in spite of trying too hard, I miserably failed to get any plausible idea regarding the “guarantor” of the real or presumed “assurances.”

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt