January 5, 2024
ISLAMABAD – IT is unfortunate that even sincere efforts to build bridges between political parties have remained unable to achieve any real breakthrough thus far. On Tuesday, Senate Opposition Leader Dr Shahzad Wasim, who belongs to the PTI, once again made an overture to rival parties for a sit-down to discuss national issues and find common ground.
While this is a positive gesture considering the rank toxicity pervading the political atmosphere, it is unlikely to be taken seriously given how ephemeral similar efforts have proven in the past.
At this point, it seems unfair to lay the blame on any one leader: all of them are guilty of abandoning the ground rules of democratic politics in favour of a cut-throat competition to curry favour with unelected elements.
To make matters worse, several shortcuts to power seem readily available. The major parties have thus been disincentivised from engaging with each other and finding political solutions to political problems.
While the state stumbles all over as it begrudgingly marches towards a historic general election, the citizenry still seems to be holding on to some hope for a hard reset on Feb 8.
After the Sturm and Drang that defined most of 2022 and all of 2023, the people of Pakistan deserve some calm in this new year, which the upcoming election was hoped to deliver.
However, in the absence of a new political understanding, the window for opportunity is closing fast. There has been much moaning and groaning over the ongoing demise of Pakistani democracy, with various commentators laying the blame on the transgressions of some seemingly unaccountable forces, but the fact is that the politicians still do wield a considerable bit of power that they have simply refused to use to bail the country out of the mess it is in. They must realise that history will not absolve them of their neglect.
At some level, every reasonable politician knows that the current situation is not tenable. A deeply controversial election — as the upcoming one is shaping up to be — will not benefit any of the stakeholders, not even the party that ascends to power through it.
Without a legitimate government in Islamabad, the anxieties that have wreaked so much havoc over the last few years will continue to persist. The solution, as ever, lies in negotiating a way out and setting some ground rules for the upcoming election. There must be an immediate end to political victimisation, and all politicians should be given a fair chance to compete for the public’s mandate.
The doctrine of mutually assured destruction has no place in politics. For their own sakes, civilian leaders must learn to live, survive and thrive with each other. Instead of waiting for deliverance, they must find it together.