Choices have consequences
Although the writing is on the wall already, the major opposition parties – Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party – are in a tight spot. The former more so than the latter. During the last couple of years they have been on a collision course with the institutions and suffered for it as well. That was one reason other political parties and a major chunk of liberal section of the society supported their cause for ‘respect for vote.’
Their latest position on the bill at hand was deemed as a total capitulation and many thought that Nawaz’s going abroad was part of an understanding with the government who otherwise would never let him off the hook. There is a strong reaction within the PML ranks and their leaders and spokespersons are having a tough time facing the TV anchors. That explains why Khawaja Asif who is at the helm in the absence of top leadership and Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s strategic silence, first denied receiving any letter from elder Sharif and then suddenly found one.
The PPP although is on course to supporting the law of extension in services chiefs’ tenure, it took a little cautious route. They called for adopting the proper legislative route, sending the bills to defence standing committees of both the houses of the parliament. It has only delayed the matter for a few days. Even if the two parties abstain to have a face saving, the bills are likely to be passed.
In the meanwhile the other opposition parties which until recently were working together under the banner of Rahber Committee have called out all those supporting the legislation. The JUI-F, PkMAP, JI( not part of opp alliance), and ANP are in outright opposition of the move. This is a healthy debate and lends credence to the democratic process.
Chiefs of our defence forces work for an institution that belongs to the entire nation. And if we are able to acquire consensus around the all-important aspect of how their tenures are decided shall be a landmark achievement for the parliament. This shall also put to rest the ambiguity that apex court has alluded to in its verdict. We already have a precedent in the 1973 Constitution and the 18th Constitutional amendment that are the product of lengthy parliamentary debates and consensus among all the political parties irrespective of the strength of their representation in the parliament. Any such piece of legislation that has been through thorough debates has greater chances of staying relevant and unopposed for a longer time. The proverbial ball is now in the political leadership’s court and the moment is upon them to take a decision. And, of course, the electorate shall judge them for their decisions.