Ansar M Bhatti
A mixed reaction has been witnessed both from the government and the PTI ranks after the Election Commission of Pakistan’s verdict in the prohibited funding case. Both sides are seen expressing jim jams over the verdict and claiming a victory. As a matter of fact, there is some pie for each party in that verdict. The PTI should seek solace in the fact that the decision does not pose any immediate threat to it as was expected. Experts say the Election Commission did not have the jurisdiction of either canceling the registration of the party or withdraw the election symbol. So the PTI for sure should feel itself in the safe zone albeit till the time the matter lands in the apex court.
On the other hand, the ECP decision does provide sufficient material to the government alliance to make a strong case of ‘Sadiq and Ameen’ under Article 62 and 63, against Imran Khan. According to government parties, Imran Khan presented a false statement in the Election Commission therefore by doing so he in fact seriously breached the Article 62 and 63. They claim, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sent home by the apex court under the same Articles and as he had also presented a false affidavit. The experts however are of the view that there is a difference between Imran Khan’s statement and Nawaz Sharif affidavit. Imran Khan signed a simple statement of accounts given to him by the Chartered Accountants. So, if here is any anomaly in those accounts, the company that carried out the audit shall be held responsible, while in Nawaz Sharif case, he submitted his statement on an affidavit, which is a legal document and had legal implications. Nevertheless, the matter will now go to courts and decided there.
As regards the question whether the ECP decision will impact upon the popularity of the PTI, especially in the coming general elections, I think does not hold any ground. Despite this decision the PTI will continue to be the leading political party, particularly in the Punjab and KP provinces, provided there is some adverse verdict from the apex court about chairman Imran Khan. The government and the allied parties are all set to take the matter to the Supreme Court and reference against the PTI and Imran Khan is being fine tuned.
Pakistan is a unique country in the sense that here people do not follow the law, rather law follows people. It is up to the people as to how to manipulate law in their favour or against their opponents. Law here simply behaves and feels pleasure in dancing to the tune of powers- that- be. It is up to these powers to use law in order to teach someone a lesson. We have seen it happening in the cases of former Prime Ministers Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. Ostensibly, they were the persons more sinned against than sinning.
Realistically speaking, PTI in particular and Imran Khan in general happen to be the key stakeholders in the prevalent political system. PTI, in the given political scenarios, acts as a balancing force viz-a-viz PML N, PPP and rest of the ruling parties. Obviating PTI from the political scene would badly disturb the political balance in favour of these two parties especially. So, logically there are hardly any chances of PTI to be dissolved as a political party, despite the fact the government alliance would try its best to seek its dissolution through a court order.
The allied parties during their August 3, 2022 session decided to put Imran Khan and other key figures on the Exit Control List (ECL), taking refuge in the the ECP decision. There were no such orders or observations in the ECP decision however the government decided on its own to take this step. The purpose is obviously to bring the PTI leadership under pressure, but this trick may not work well and is likely to prove counterproductive. Another decision taken at the meeting pertains to filing of reference against the PTI chairman Imran Khan under Article 62 and 63. Here, the government seems to have a case albeit the PTI lawyers are confident no harm will come to their chairman in this particular case.
All said and done, under emerging scenario, the fate of early elections seems to be hanging in balance. It appears as if the PTI would now focus on fighting this reference first. The case holds utmost importance for the PTI because future of Imran Khan is linked to this case. As long as the ECP verdict remains there, the fate of PTI chairman will be in limbo. The verdict had to be either stayed by the court or decided in favour of PTI. Only then the PTI can consider itself in the comfort zone. Experts believe the reference may be deiced within 15 days once it lands in the court while there are some jurists who believe it is going to be a long drawn battle.
Imran Khan, on his part, needs to seriously look into the events that led him and his party to this pass. One thing he and his party need to understand precisely that they simply cannot exist in isolation. If they want to do politics and grab important positions, they have to learn how to work with the outer world especially the super powers including America and China. One likes it or not, the USA a reality and you have to co-exist with it. When you have a trusted and mutually beneficial partnership then for sure you can also push your partner to do more. Imran Khan is still the only hope of millions. Undoubtedly, he is the one who can lead this country towards self-reliance. But for that he is required to do some soul searching as to what went wrong during his four-year tenure. If he is able to rectify shortcomings of the past, he can surely pose formidable challenge to his opponents.