The Imran Khan led ‘selected’ hybrid regime has long faced instability. However, over the last few months, with a divided opposition, seeming victory for Pakistan’s endeavors in Afghanistan, the possibility of the next IMF installment, it appeared that there was some short-term stability. However, once again, there are signs of looming instability.
In the words of Dawn’s resident editor for Islamabad, Fahd Hussain, “the lack of a functional working relationship between the government and the opposition has begun to be perceived as a major obstacle for strategic policymaking that requires a buy-in from all stakeholders. The system is about to extract the price of being broken.”
According to Hussain, “Two upcoming events will illustrate the scale of the price. On July 26, two of the four members of the Election Commission of Pakistan are due to retire. The ECP decision-making is invested in the chairman and the four members, one from each province. After completing their five-year term, retired justice Altaf Ibrahim from Punjab and retired justice Irshad Qaisar from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will relinquish their posts. Their replacements should ideally have already been in place. They are not. In fact, the process to start selecting the new members has not even started. With these two vacancies unfilled, the ECP will still be able to make decisions but if for some reason one of the three remaining decision-makers is not available, constitutional issues will prop up.”
Next, “The four-year tenure of Chairman NAB retired justice Javed Iqbal ends in October this year. It is the most important appointment at this stage given the role that NAB is playing in present times. This key decision also requires a meaningful consultation between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. How the PM deals with the immediate issue of the appointment of the members of the ECP will give us a clear idea of what will happen three months down the line when the NAB chairman vacates his office. We are staring into a completely avoidable constitutional void just because personal dislike has overwhelmed the business of the state.”
Finally, “The larger point, however, is how to sustain the working of the state under the overhang of this hostility. The situation in Afghanistan and its possible impact on Pakistan is a reminder of the need for collective leadership at the time of strategic challenges. But when the government and the opposition cannot even fulfil the basic requirements of their mandate because the PM and the leader of the opposition cannot sit across a table, then cooperation on larger issues appears extremely improbable.”