At a time when the country is facing Covid-19 pandemic, the urgent need of the hour in every country is national unity. However, in Pakistan, the government doesn’t appear to understand the need for national level decision making.
In a recent piece titled ‘National unity, a must, Sir?’ veteran human rights advocate and columnist, I.A. Rahman, criticized the “PTI leadership’s allergy to the idea of consulting the PML-N and PPP leaders,” stating “they are no worse, if not better, than many of their former colleagues who constitute the core of the PTI parliamentary party.”
If the “coronavirus crisis is a warlike situation” Rahman argues, then “Inter-party consultation is needed to develop a national consensus.”
According to Rahman, “This is not a plea for including opposition representatives in the federal coalition at this stage. The government is quite stable and the prime minister has given proof of defying party pulls by releasing the FIA report on the sugar crisis, and taking action against a few ministers/advisers and his controller of the bureaucracy. The purpose of advocating unity of political forces at the national level is to ensure that policy decisions at the top level are based on the broadest possible consensus among the country’s political groups. Functional national unity is needed for a variety of reasons — for interprovincial coordination, for example. The prime minister’s view that the centre cannot impose its will on the federating units after the adoption of the 18th Amendment is commendable, but this does not obviate the need for interprovincial consultation. The government can easily afford the convening of the Council of Common Interests that Sindh has been demanding.”
Further, “A national consensus is also necessary for filling
the gaps in
the campaign against the pandemic. Official spokespersons are talking about what they have done and not admitting what remains to be done. The capacity for testing people for infection is pitiably low, as Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, who is not known for exaggeration, has been emphasising. The doctors in Quetta are being supplied with safety gear after being mercilessly baton-charged and thrown into prison for asking for it. National unity/consensus is needed to organise relief for the multitudes who are without resources, and this can best be done by reviving the local bodies, a proposal that cannot be ignored only because it has been mooted by Qamar Zaman Kaira and HRCP. National unity is also needed to end the tribulations of the media and must begin by ending the unlawful interference in the distribution of and denial of advertisements to leading newspapers, as unlawful means are adopted when the target of discriminatory punishment has not committed any legally cognisable offence. Above all, national unity is required to persuade the people to accept the religious authorities’ advice regarding the offering of prayers and maintaining social distance. What is being suggested is the formation of all-parties committees at every level to streamline the fight against the pandemic. Such a move will also strengthen democracy.”