Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s talk of ‘national reconciliation’ has caused a furore

Opposition parties in the country smell a ‘soft coup’ in his talks of the infamous National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), introduced by the last dictator-President Pervez Musharaf on October 7, 2007

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media

Sankar Ray/IPA

Democratic polity in Pakistan is endangered once again as Prime Minister Imran Khan suddenly talks of the infamous National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), introduced by the last dictator-President Pervez Musharaf on 7 October 2007, granting amnesty to politicians, political workers and bureaucrats who were accused of corruption, money laundering, murders and terrorism between 1 January 1986 and 12 October 1999 — the phase between two Martial Law stints in Pakistan.

Although Khan is apparently assertive that he would not apply ‘NRO’ for corrupt elements, meaning young Pakistanis, the rebuttal from the opposition, mainly leaders of Pakistan Democratic Movement, reflects a feeling of a bad omen. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice-President Maryam Nawaz, leading a rally from Gajjumatta to Data Darbar in Lahore, as part of PDM’s mobilisation drive at Minar-e-Pakistan, did smell a rat in PM’s talk about NRO.

Almost coincidentally, The Friday Times editor-in-chief Najam Shetty in his eagerly-awaited column recalled that in 2014, the veteran politician Javed Hashmi left the Pakistan Tehreek-e-insaf, the present ruling party, divulging that “Imran Khan told him to get ready for a ‘soft coup’ by the military establishment in the manner of Bangladesh 2007 to cleanse politics from corruption and incompetence and set a stable and productive course for Pakistan”.

The model, he elaborated, “was based on an Interim Government headed by an ex-Supreme Court judge, selected and propped up by the Miltablishment (military establishment), who imposed a state of Emergency, witch-hunted the two mainstream parties of Hasina Wajid and Khaleda Zia for corruption and postponed the general elections.”

Khan staged a dharna at that time to besiege and overthrow the Nawaz Sharif government and replace it with a Miltablishment-engineered and selected one, headed by him. But that conspiracy failed because Sharif stood his ground and foiled the ‘soft coup’. The same Miltablishment succeeded in installing the cricketer-turned-politician on the hot seat in 2018 through ‘rigged elections’, the TFT editor wrote. He consistently repeats that the present premier is a ‘designated puppet’ of military-feudal clique that keeps breathing down the neck of whoever is at the head of regime in Islamabad.

One can’t forget the parting shot of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Asif Saeed Khosa, who disqualified a thrice-elected premier Nawaz Sharif, from holding office as he didn’t declare a petty asset / income which he hadn’t received. Justice Khosa’s retirement package “included a passionate plea for a ‘grand national dialogue of all stakeholders, including the judiciary’, to pull Pakistan out of its recurring crises. It may again be noted that in 2007 the Bangladesh constitution had stipulated that the last retiring Chief Justice should head the Interim Government designated to hold elections, confirming the departing Pakistani Chief Justice’s plea to be quite self-serving”, added Shetty in his dauntless and bantering style..

The PTI-led government (read Miltablishment) is unnerved at the steadily build of PDM towards the seat of power. But a section of middle-of-the-road commentators is worried over the disturbing impatience of dominant segment of PDM seemingly eager for step-down by Khan before completion of his tenure.

Malik Muhammad Ashra, columnist in The Nation, wrote, “Under the given situation it would be advisable for the opposition parties represented in the PDM to revisit their course of action and allow the government to complete its tenure to end the vicious circle of fomenting political crisis. Let the people be the judge of its performance. That is the spirit of democracy. If the government does not perform well or fails to promote their well-being as promised by the ruling party, they would give their verdict with the ballot. While asking others to give respect to vote, they themselves must give it respect by accepting the result of the elections and wait for the judgment of the people in the next elections”.

Indeed, the Opposition is expected to behave cautiously as consolidation of the gains of democracy, ensuring rule of law and preserving sanctity of the constitution are expected from all who want democracy to blossom in a hostile situation since collective responsibility lies with both the ruling as well as the opposition parties. This political culture is not caressed by politicians in Pakistan and as a result the country remains a ‘victim of the self-inflicted tragedies that came about due to the political instability triggered by the irresponsible behaviour of the political forces’.

It has almost become visceral for the parties losing elections to declare them rigged. Instead of seeking redress of their complaints from respective legal forums, they have invariably resorted to launching campaigns to bring down the incumbent government which have even led to wrapping up the system by military dictators, pushing the country further away from the envisioned democratic path.

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