Pakistan’s Political Crisis: Could The Young Generation Be A Hope For A Better Future? – OpEd

Pakistan has been mired in political turmoil ever since it gained independence. Pakistan is a federal Islamic democratic country governed by a parliamentary form of government. Islam is its official religion. In 1956, the country’s first constitution was ratified, marking a watershed moment in the country’s political development. However, it was a major setback for the nation’s constitutional development when Ayub Khan suspended it in 1958. In 1962, this person replaced the previous constitution with a new one in 1973. However, the constitutional framework of the country suffered a serious blow when Zia-ul-Haq suspended this constitution in 1977.

The Pakistani military establishment has had significant impacts on Pakistani politics at the national level. During the years 1958–1971, 1977–1988, and 1999–2008, military coups led to the imposition of martial law and the appointment of military commanders as de facto rulers as presidents. There is a clear separation of powers and built-in checks and balances between the various branches of government in Pakistan’s multi-party parliamentary system. In May 2013, the world witnessed a peaceful and well-organized democratic transition. The political climate in Pakistan is shaped by a unique social philosophy that draws from socialist, conservative, and third-way ideas. There have been several political crises in Pakistan recently given the bitter relations between political and military leadership, corruption, vested interests of religious leadership, etc. These crises have had varying effects on the country.

A significant contributor was the ongoing political crisis between the ruling party, led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), on the one hand, and the opposition party, led by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), on the other. The no-confidence motion that forced Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign in April 2022 ushered in the first year of political unrest in Pakistan. The political unrest in Pakistan started in 2022, when the country’s opposition banded together to file a no-confidence motion against Imran Khan’s government in the National Assembly. To save his government and prevent the rise to power of his historical rivals who stand accused of corruption, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan pleaded with the country’s establishment not to remain neutral and play an active role in the political processes of stability of the country.

Imran Khan became an opposition member from Mianwali in 2002 after founding the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in 1996. PTI boycotted the 2008 general election and became the second-largest party in 2013. PTI won the 2018 general election and formed a coalition government with independents under Khan as Prime Minister (18 August 2018–10 April 2022). However, his parliamentary majority crumbled after a string of defections. The current political crisis started when the PM was deposed on April 10, 2022, on corruption charges, such as those in connection with the Al-Qadir Trust and the Toshakhana Case. Several legal actions and criminal investigations were initiated against him. Notwithstanding former PM Khan’s insistence on a general election, he lost his eligibility to serve in public office in October 2022 due to the Toshakhana case.

Toshakhan Case

Some politicians from the ruling party and others from the coalition government of Pakistan filed the Toshakhana reference case in August 2022 against the former Prime Minister Khan, for not disclosing information about gifts given to Toshakhana, officially received from different heads of state. Members of the ruling coalition, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), referred the matter to Pakistan’s National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who then forwarded it to Pakistan’s Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja.

The allegations in the Toshakhana case were levelled against PM Khan as he failed to disclose information regarding gifts received through the Toshakhana, which were not included in his annual assets report submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The Election Commission of Pakistan conducted an inquiry into such cases and rendered its final decision on October 21, 2022, whereby it disqualified Imran from holding public office for a period of five years. This decision was based on the findings that Imran had engaged in dishonest conduct, provided false information, and made inaccurate declarations, as per the reference under Article 63(1)(p). The ECP further directed that the reference be forwarded to the trial court for the initiation of criminal proceedings.

After receiving four gifts as Prime Minister from different heads of state, Imran admitted of selling them in his most recent response to the ECP on September 8, 2022. He sold these gifts of costing oor Rs 21.56 million to Rs 58 million in the secondary market. Three of the packages contained Rolex watches, while the fourth contained a Graff watch along with cufflinks, a ring, and an expensive pen. The lawmakers from the ruling coalition PDM presented evidence to disqualify former prime minister Imran under Article 63, sections 2 and 3, and Article 62(1)(f) in the Toshakhana reference case. Due to Imran’s confession and the petitioner’s documentation, the ECP stayed their decision against the Toshakhana reference on October 2, 2022. On October 21, the ECP disqualified former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for five years for violating Article 63(1)(p) through unethical behaviour, false claims, and erroneous declarations. The ECP has also mandated that this reference be transmitted to the trial court for the purpose of initiating criminal proceedings.

Before leaving for Islamabad to attend the hearings of his bail application at the Islamabad High Court on May 9, Khan reaffirmed emphatically, “This is my army and my Pakistan,” and repeated his claim that a senior ISI officer was involved in a plot to assassinate him. I don’t have to make this up,” he said, emphasising the seriousness of his accusation. During Khan’s court appearance at the Islamabad High Court, paramilitary Pakistan Rangers forces forcibly entered court room by breaking a window to apprehend him as he was submitting his biometric data. After being released on bail on May 12, Khan said he was beaten by police, including having a baton struck against his head. There was no justification for my arrest. Someone has abducted me. This happens only in lawless regions where the military routinely abducts civilians. There is no rule of law. Where are the cops at this time? It would appear that martial law has been declared.

Unpresented Protests Against the Military

Soon aftermath of the arrest of former PM Khan, violent protests against the Pakistani military started. However, protests of such nature were unusual in Pakistan. The military was not only the target of protesters’ ire; rather this time, the civil unrest was so widespread that military property and installations were vandalised as well. This time around, protesters burned down the home of the Pakistan Army’s corps commander in Lahore and broke into the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi on multiple occasions. Protesters attempted to damage the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) building while doing other forms of vandalism around the area. The situation became very critical as the military and civilians stood eyeball to eyeball.

According to the military’s official line of communication, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Khan’s detention was carried out within the boundaries of the law. Swiftly, labelling the demonstrations a “black day” and stressing the need to maintain law and order, the authorities made clear their disapproval of the protesters. They also warned against vigilantism and reaffirmed their dedication to strict law enforcement. Fawad Chaudhry claimed in his statement that it is outside the purview of the ISPR to decide whether or not Khan’s arrest was lawful.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan issued its ruling on the illegality of the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on May 11. The court has issued an order for Khan’s immediate release after hearing arguments that his detention was illegal. The Honourable Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial has stated that the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) detention of Mr. Khan at the Islamabad High Court through the deployment of paramilitary forces was in violation of the legal framework and that such measures may have inhibiting effects on the legal process. However, the Supreme Court has ordered former Prime Minister Imran Khan to appear before the Islamabad High Court on May 12. The Islamabad High Court issued a ruling on May 12 granting him a two-week bail, protecting him from re-arrest on the same charges. In addition, the court has issued an order stating that the suspect in question is immune from arrest for a week, regardless of the charges that may be brought against him. The corruption allegations against Mr. Khan continue despite the above rulings.

Could the young generation be a hope for a better future?

The history of Pakistan has been packed with numerous political crises and turbulences. In light of these crises, important questions have arisen regarding the future of the country in terms of political stability, economic growth and development, relations with neighbouring countries, and meeting of the basic needs of the common man in terms of health and education, along with several other issues. The most recent political crisis that the country has been mired in began in 2018, when opposition parties accused the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of rigging the country’s general elections. This is the most recent political crisis that the country has been mired in. Months of protests and demonstrations were held as a response to this crisis by opposition parties such as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). As a direct consequence of the crisis, a large number of legal cases were brought against the government, and a coalition of opposition parties known as the PDM came into existence. The PDM has issued a demand for the current PTI administration’s resignation as well as for the holding of fresh elections.

On the other hand, the opposition parties voted against the incumbent Prime Minister, Imran Khan, and designated Shahbaz Sharif as the new Prime Minister on April 10, 2022. The Pakistani constitutional crisis of 2022–23 came as a direct result of this event. PTI, a political party that is currently it is in opposition, has recently been protesting against the government of PM Shahbaz Sharif, which is currently in power, by holding such rallies. Given the current state of affairs, it may appear improbable that the people of Pakistan will ever experience political stability.

In the face of such predicaments, the country has been consistently confronted with a number of significant challenges. Some of the most serious of these included persistent political instability, poverty, illiteracy, corruption, and acts of terrorism. Both domestic and international acts of terrorism have had devastating impacts on Pakistan’s economy as well as its infrastructure. The value of the country’s currency has been steadily declining, and fewer opportunities for outside investments have been coming into the country. Consequently, the provision of essential health and educational services, as well as issues relating to food and energy security, industrial development, higher inflation, and external debt, are just some of the other problems that have been plaguing the nation for some time now. As a direct result of the ongoing political crisis in Pakistan, tensions between the country’s many distinct religious and ethnic communities have reached dangerously high levels. There have been reports of an increase in the frequency of attacks on communities that adhere to the Shia and Ahmadiyya faiths.

Finally, Pakistan’s political crisis is one of its biggest challenges for the future of the country. The country’s youth can offer a ray of hope amidst these political and economic instabilities and crises. Pakistan can overcome such political challenges and build a better future with more educated and politically engaged young people. Pakistan’s youth are demanding change and actively contributing to the country’s political stability. They are campaigning for a more participatory and open democracy with higher standards of openness, accountability, and social justice. Thus, the young people of Pakistan are a ray of light for their country’s future, which is filled with uncertainty and challenges. The current political crisis can be resolved, and a stronger, more prosperous, and more democratic Pakistan can be built if the people of Pakistan continue to participate and engage in the political and economic processes of the country. If the people of the country are monitored and directed towards the goal of preserving the nation’s unity, integrity, and sovereignty, thus, the future of the country can be characterised by peace, prosperity, and possibilities?