76 years after independence, Pakistan remains a country ruled by its Army. Pakistan’s civilian politicians appear unable or unwilling to really push back against the military establishment – preferring to work with it in the hope that they will be brought back to power.
On August 9, Pakistan’s 15th National Assembly (NA) was dissolved. As per the Constitution, general elections need to be held within 60 days if the Assembly was dissolved after completing its full term.
However, in a tactical move, the outgoing coalition agreed to dissolve the NA three days before its end date of August 12, thereby extending the deadline for new polls by an additional 30 days. Further, since the coalition government chose to certify new census results it also triggered a constitutional requirement to hold the next elections according to the new population data, which means they are unlikely to be held this year.
In fact, yet another move by the outgoing dispensation to give extraordinary powers to the caretaker government beyond their usual remit of conducting polls, has led to speculation about whether the elections would be held at all in the foreseeable future.
As columnist and analyst Dr Mohammad Taqi recently wrote, “The way the 15th NA divested itself of its own powers and surrendered its constitutional domain to the army is surpassed only by the 1985 party-less 7th NA under General Ziaul Haq. But even that assembly took almost six months to pass the infamous 8th Amendment giving the vile and wily dictator unbridled power to dissolve the assemblies. That virulent mutation, however, could not be remedied for another 25 years. The outgoing PDM government may have prevailed against Imran Khan, but the way Pakistan has regressed to a fully-blown praetorian state, it sure looks like a Pyrrhic victory.”
Taqi warns, “What is clear though is that the political class in Pakistan has learnt no lesson. Six years ago, Nawaz Sharif stood where Imran Khan stands today: convicted, imprisoned and debarred from politics over fabricated charges by an army-judiciary combine, with which Imran Khan had made a common cause. Whether Imran Khan is actually guilty of wrongdoing has been rendered irrelevant by the PDM-army nexus dismembering his party through yet another dreadful exercise in political engineering. True that Imran Khan has only himself to blame for ditching parliament and dissing the dialogue with political opponents, but the PDM cannot be absolved of bending and flouting the law to ostensibly give him a taste of his own medicine. The PTI and the PDM’s stints were effectively a throwback to the 1990s, when the PML-N and the PPP took turns seeking the army’s patronage to batter, bruise and bump each other out every two to three years. The only outcome of such hobnobbing – then, now, and ever – to subvert the constitution and undermine the parliament, is crippling an already measly democracy while strengthening the army behemoth. In this, the outgoing NA may rank perhaps the worst even by Pakistan’s atrocious democratic standards.”