Pakistan: Repressive Attitude of the PTI Government

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by Mehrooj Rai 9 June 2019

The fiddle of change projecting an autocratic and oppressive approach and violating the rule of law, constitution, human rights, and democratic norms is contradictory to the vibrant dreams that people were shown before the elections last year.

The Tabdeeli-sarkar comprising the non-political actors and non-elected actors signifies the government’s significant reliance on technocrats to run the government where the important ministries have been given to them. But one cannot elude the idea that dependency on technocrats only deteriorates the parliamentary and political system as the sense of understanding, responsibility, and concern for the people cannot be anticipated or expected from non-elected representatives.

As far as the political set-up is concerned, the coalition partners of the government have also voiced their reservations and concerns. Akhtar Mengal of the BNP has already said that he would vote against the government on budget approval. Seven votes are determining the fate of the current government. Two votes of the PTM, Mohsin Dawar, and Ali Wazir are not there. Remaining five! As Akhtar Mengal of the BNP has already said and if there is no change of heart and his demands are not accepted, then only one will remain. Only one would be left for the government to sustain in that case. Hence, there is a high possibility of the Vote of No Confidence.

Never underestimate the power of the minutest representation, particularly in the parliamentary edifice.

One of the beauty-traits of democratic fabric is tolerance, but for the incumbent government, the dissenting voices are becoming too hard to digest or gulp in.

On 29th March Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the PPP Chairman appeared before the NAB. On the other hand, Islamabad Capital Territory on Tuesday had instructed the provincial home secretaries of KPK and Punjab to tell that their police personnel to bar the entry of the PPP workers. The Islamabad administration had stopped the PPP supporters from arriving in the federal capital, and the entry routes to the federal capital were sealed.

Despite the initial claim of the government to provide the opposition with containers and food to protest, the PPP workers were attacked, beaten, baton-charged, and tear-gassed. They were under shelling and water cannon. Police arrested forty civilians and two female MNAs.

The PTI is the same party that staged sit-in for 126 days in 2014 while it was in the opposition. But now when it’s in government, the entire capital was in lock-down and there was a crackdown on political activists.

Furthermore, the reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa was filed some days ago by President Arif Alvi. Justice Isa is known for the counterblast of the Quetta carnage commission report and Faizabad dharna judgment. When the Supreme Court’s verdict on Faizabad dharna was passed, it was quite clear that this would not go unnoticed. Even the way media reported the verdict, not highlighting much, raised many doubts as did the response of the government. The PTI filed a petition for review of the judgment.
These presidential references galvanized everyone from civil society to judiciary and political parties (both opposition and allied ones) bearing in mind, especially the timing of these references. As a result, Additional attorney general Zahid F. Ebrahim resigned in reaction to the purported filing of references against judges, citing government’s ‘attempt to browbeat judiciary.’

What is with this harsh and undemocratic attitude of the government? It seems the dissenting voices and dissenting verdicts are unacceptable in Naya Pakistan. A prevailing sense of déjà vu!

The government is working in a democratic and parliamentary structure supposedly where there should be freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of speech and freedom of political activities but the freedom and the parliamentary system are being patently undermined, and the media is facing undeclared censorship. The government is reinforcing time and again the perception that it is an embodiment of Musharraf’s era.

From references against judges, clips pouring out of NAB to curbs on media, the way the politics is spinning where the accountability process, bureaucracy, and politicians are being stained and smudged raises a very serious question. Where is the system actually leading us towards? Is it towards the despotic and dictatorial domains directly dominating us to this day in disguise? Although such a possibility is unlikely to evolve considering the continuation of the democratic system and timely elections, the political events of Pakistan are way too hard to predict.

The real powers are not even lurking in concealment either and are known to everyone. Their role presently is much too expansive and evident for particularly when they are functioning behind a deceptive semblance.

So direct or indirect, open or hidden, unconstitutional intervention in the process of politics and democracy is reproachful in both the cases as it causes profound and detestable wounds to the entire democratic and political process.