A year after the regime change

The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan was sent packing through a vote of no-confidence on April 9, 2022. But the regime change — despite being purely constitutional — triggered a dangerous crisis which is threatening the integrity of powerful state institutions, besides effecting political instability and economic meltdown.

The implications of the regime change took a decisive turn on April 4 this year when a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice, ordered the Election Commission to hold elections to the dissolved Punjab Assembly on May 14. However, the federal cabinet rejected the top court decision the same day calling it “inapplicable”. Never before in the history of Pakistan has a federal government pursued such a policy of defiance against superior judiciary, without redeeming its consequences for the country.

Let’s analyse the post-regime change situation critically. The last one year has witnessed the height of political opportunism; schism in judiciary and bureaucracy; and an assertive chain of command as far as the military is concerned. When all state institutions have either become fragile or reached a precarious condition, how can Pakistan, which has 220 million people and is equipped with nuclear arsenal, cope with the situation emanating since the April 9 vote of no-confidence? When the incumbent coalition government is bent upon delaying elections to the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblies fearing an electoral rout and when the federal government is using all power at its disposal not to defy the Supreme Court judgment of April 4, how can Pakistan move ahead? While there are models of success in human and social development in different parts of the world, including neighbouring India, Pakistan is going the other way because of the politics of opportunism, confrontation, crisis and chaos.

Jinnah’s Pakistan — which should have been a role model of democracy, good governance, rule of law, accountability and political and religious tolerance — is fast turning into a state where the economy is in a shambles, politics has been criminalised; and corruption and nepotism are rife. When a lack of political maturity, lust for power and undue patronage are destroying institutions and societal structures, how can Pakistan be pulled back from an impending disaster? Where is the leadership missing — a leadership which is required to play a pivotal role in managing serious economic and political crises? Non-serious, opportunistic and imprudent approach on the part of political parties, particularly those belonging to the incumbent ruling coalition, will surely plunge Pakistan deeper into the prevailing crisis.

A lot has been said and written in the last one year about why the PTI government was removed from power by engineering a vote of no-confidence and how PTI and its Chairman Imran Khan have bounced back, proving the calculations of the PDM member parties wrong. But what has not been debated is why there is this surge in the popularity of PTI and the erosion of support for the coalition government after April 9, 2022; and how one party suffering from serious political victimisation in the last one year has shown resilience; and how there has been an awakening against non-political forces that have long been controlling the instruments of power.

A year on, the regime change needs to be analysed from three angles.

First, it is the political opportunism on the part of PDM and PPP to escape from elections and maintain their hold over power by all and any means that has led to a massive surge in the PTI’s popular. For the first time in the political history of Pakistan corrupt and criminal elements have ganged up against a party which calls for right to vote, justice, merit, accountability, rule of law and good governance. When political opportunism blurs the line drawn between right and wrong, and good and bad, the outcome is erosion of ethics and values. That is exactly what has been happening in Pakistan where judiciary and the constitution are under attack by the parties that have joined hands to deny PTI its return to power. The nexus between ‘mafias’ for political power and patronage is a reality, and perhaps it is their last attempt to stop an impending end of their role in the politics of Pakistan. Fighting with the superior judiciary is a big gamble and the coalition government’s confidence that they will win may be misplaced.

Second, over the last one year, not only has the economy been shattered, but governance and rule of law have also became a casualty. Massive increase in the prices of essential commodities, sharp decline in the value of rupee versus dollar, unprecedented rise in inflation and depleting foreign exchange reserves over the last one year speak of the huge cost of the regime change. Some of those in the ruling, who possess some integrity, have remained silent and provided strength to those who want to derail elections and sustain their hold over power at the expense of democracy. It is yet to be seen how people who are now empowered with faith and conviction can defeat ‘mafias’ and save the country from a predictable catastrophe. Can Pakistan change as a result of the circumstances in the last one year and get rid of the baggage of the assault of the ‘doctrine of necessity’ on democracy?

Finally, a year after the regime change, all state organs have been exposed because of their failure to fulfil their duties and make judicious use of power. Likewise, political parties, media and business elite have also been exposed reflecting their mindset to tolerate corruption, nepotism and political opportunism.

The way out from the prevailing impasse is not possible unless the stakeholders are forced by the people of Pakistan to refrain from political opportunism, lust for power, corruption and nepotism. At stake is the survival of Pakistan because if something happens to this country because of irresponsible, egocentric and imprudent approach of stakeholders, the outcome will be disastrous.