By Inayat Amir
In a swift rejoinder to the government’s move to dissolve National Assembly in a bid to evade a pending no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, democratic and progressive voices on Sunday vehemently condemned the move calling it an attempt at abrogating the constitution – tantamount to high treason.
They urged the Supreme Court to intervene in order to avoid a looming constitutional crisis in an already fragile democracy marred by recurring spells of coup d’états and indirect military rules.
Terming the govt’s move ‘arbitrary and entirely unconstitutional’ the Awami Workers Party (AWP) condemned PM IK for putting the country’s nascent democracy at stake just to avoid an impending ouster from power.
A statement issued by the left-wing party read that, the AWP has always stood firmly in support of constitutional rule and parliamentary democracy. The party warns that Imran Khan’s intransigence in the face of the entirely constitutional vote of no-confidence process leaves Pakistan vulnerable to another prolonged period of unconstitutional rule, and, in the worst-case scenario, martial law’.
AWP President Yousuf Mustikhan, General Secretary Bakhshal Thalho, senior vice-president Akhtar Hussain said that the current impasse is not simply a constitutional crisis but reflected the complete failure of Pakistan’s ruling class, headed by the military establishment, to create a stable political and economic order that resembles a functional democracy.
They said, the PTI itself was thrust into power by the establishment and it is now clear that this was a disastrous experiment that has exacerbated Pakistan’s status as a rentier state of imperial powers, where religion is weaponized, natural resources pillaged relentlessly and the working masses deprived of their democratic right to rule.
AWP believes that IK has committed a high treason by trampling the constitution. Hence a high treason case must be initiated against Imran Khan, Fawad Choudhry and Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri under Article 6 of the Constitution, the statement read.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and Pakistan Federal Union of journalists swiftly condemned the action and termed it an attack on the democracy and constitution of the country.
HRCP Chairperson Hina Jilani, Secretary-General Harris Khalique, PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar, Secretary-General Nasir Zaidi, in a strongly worded joint statement asserted that the acts of the President, PM, and the Deputy Speaker amount to subverting the constitution and an attack on democracy. This will push the country towards anarchy and authoritarianism.
They appealed to the SC to declare the government’s move as void Ab Initio.
‘The political system cannot be run on the whims and wishes of individuals. Personal agenda and ego must not be allowed to detract Pakistan from a democratic path’, the statement read.
Haqooq-e-Khald Movement leader and outspoken activist Amaar Ali Jaan said an unconstitutional act was not a ‘surprise’, as jubilantly postulated by emotionally-charged supporters of PM IK, but conversely was a high treason.
He asserted that the govt’s move could be challenged in a court of law however, considering the level of polarization and division, early elections appear to be the only way out. Parties should begin presenting alternatives to the public rather than solely focusing on Islamabad.
Similarly, Jibran Nasir, a legal practitioner and a prominent progressive voice shed light on the legal aspects of the move through a series of tweets.
He said ‘if the SC accepts that NA stand dissolved and elections should take place, then in effect [it] would be validating today’s unconstitutional proceedings. The SC will most likely reverse all proceedings & direct for VNC [Vote of no confidence] to be put to vote in line with the Constitution.
‘If an action is a nullity in law then any proceedings flowing from it are also void. A nullity can’t be perpetuated. PM losses right to dissolve NA when VNC is pending. Dismissing VNC was unconstitutional & through that PM assuming right to ask President to dissolve NA is also void’, he stated.
He went on to say that democracy can only work if all political parties, leaders & institution submit themselves to a mutually agreed higher value/code which in our case is our Constitution. PTI through its repeated actions have clearly demonstrated it’s willing to sacrifice democracy to save itself.
‘The government did not give us a surprise today. It gave us an unconstitutional act which equals high treason. On the other hand, the opposition seems to be completely running out of ideas both on the political and the economic front. The miseries of ordinary people continue to pile up. This is the best time to join grassroots groups to organize new politics that centers the concerns of ordinary people rather than being obsessed with palace intrigues’, he said.
He also pointed out a precedent in the legal history of the country saying that ‘a similar controversy that occurred back in 1989 in Anwar Durrani case where Balochistan High Court held that courts can intervene in any matter requiring interpretation of Constitution and held that it was mandatory to put the motion to vote before any dissolution.’
The rights activist said dismissing the motion for a vote of no confidence by the Deputy Speaker under Article 5 was not just a charge sheet but in fact, a ruling against the 86 MNAs who had initially presented the Motion in NA that they are disloyal to Pakistan. The SC must reverse these proceedings.
Democratic voices from across the country called upon all genuinely democratic, progressive and secular political forces to close ranks and build a genuine alternative to Pakistan’s bourgeois politicians and the military establishment to whom all mainstream parties are beholden.
Inayat Amir is an Islamabad-based journalist. He can be followed on Twitter via @inayat_amir07.