Why is Sharif getting jittery?
By: Muhammad Waqas
ALL is not good in Islamabad.
The Sharif-led government is feeling pinched by Imran Khan, once dismissed as a weak political challenge to the ruling party. In a harshly criticized knee-jerk reaction to Imran Khan’s call for a long march to Islamabad, the government has decided to invoke Article 245 of the constitution and asked the armed forces to “act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so.”
The government’s response to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) demand to conduct vote verification in four constituencies of the national assembly has now potentially triggered a larger crisis. The invoking of Article 245 is also being seen as army’s intervention in politics.
While the government claims that the army has been deployed in Pakistan’s federal capital “to pre-empt any possible blowback of Operation Zarb-e-Azb,” opposing political parties remain wary of its other sinister motives. Imran Khan, the PTI chief, has warned Sharif government from using the army for political purposes and called upon his party members to join the rally at all costs. By bringing in army, the government seems to have admitted its failure in guaranteeing safety and security of its citizens, and their assets. Further, it also displays low trust in the capabilities of national security bodies and law enforcement agencies to maintain law and order in the country. If the government cannot repose faith in these agencies at such critical moments, why does it continue to spend billions of tax money on maintaining an elaborate security system?
The government’s jittery response can perhaps also be explained by its fears that other political parties may join the Imran Khan-led protest to pose a bigger challenge to its power. In the face of mounting political pressure, the government may be forced to succumb to the demands of PTI for verification of votes and also undertake wider electoral reforms. The hesitance of government to make the voting process more effective and reliable has already cast a shadow of doubt on its credibility. If the government is sincere in making efforts to promote democracy in the country, there is no need to show reluctance in making viable and credible steps toward strengthening democratic institutions. These institutions are an absolute necessity for long-term success of the state and in their current state will continue to be abused by powerful political parties to promote their vested interests.
At a time when Pakistan’s armed forces are conducting a grand operation against militants, Sharif’s latest move is rather ill-advised. By dragging the army into politics once again, the government could be pushing the country into a deeper crisis. Any new adventure on political front by the army may hurt its standing among the people as it may again stand accused of sabotaging the country’s nascent democratic process. In view of Sharif’s sanctimonious past with the army, the government had intended to set the civil-military balance right in its early days of power. However, it is now using the sacred institution to safeguard its power seat and legitimacy against growing political opposition. As events unfold, it would be interesting to see army’s role in the whole saga. For the sake of furthering democratic process in Pakistan, it is hoped that the army would remain on sidelines and not directly meddle in politics.