Is PML-N throwing in the towel now?

After first showing nerves, then a bit of fight, to now invoking Article 245 to seek the military's help in maintaining law and order in response to opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)'s Independence Day long march on August 14, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is betraying signs of politically throwing in the towel.

The controversial measure announced for a three-month long duration by Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in Islamabad Friday is sure to ignite a political storm whose ramifications may go well beyond the PML-N government's intended desperate attempt to stop the opposition march.

Article 245 of the Constitution of Pakistan stipulates that:
(1) The Armed Forces shall, under the directions of the Federal Government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so.

(2) The validity of any direction issued by the Federal Government under clause (1) shall not be called in question in any court.

(3) A High Court shall not exercise any jurisdiction under Article 199 in relation to any area in which the Armed Forces of Pakistan are, for the time being, acting in aid of civil power in pursuance of Article 245: Provided that this clause shall not be deemed to affect the jurisdiction of the High Court in respect of any proceeding pending immediately before the day on which the Armed Forces start acting in aid of civil power.

(4) Any proceeding in relation to an area referred to in clause (3) instituted on or after the day the Armed Forces start acting in aid of civil power and pending in any High Court shall remain suspended for the period during which the Armed Forces are so acting.

For a civilian government headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been twice overthrown by the military, is not only a negation of his steadfast stance of civilian supremacy since he was last ousted in a bloodless coup in 1999, but a politically loaded dice given his historically uneasy relationship with the country's security establishment.

Until the announced resort to Article 245 beginning August, the Sharif government had been giving to believe the detractors that it would politically meet the PTI's long march, which the prime minister had advised his ministers to eschew commenting on too much in a bid to show all was well with his solid majority government at the Centre.

But it seems a raft of measures, including the surprise announcement of the revival of a military parade on Independence Day — which has long stood suspended because of security concerns — at the famous D-Chowk (in front of the Parliament House in Islamabad), which has seen notable culmination of movements/opposition marches in recent history has apparently fallen short to detract attention from the PTI's march.

Imran Khan, the chairman of PTI, which in the latest opinion poll commissioned by the respected monthly Herald is currently the party most favoured to rule, has been steadily mobilizing public opinion to hit the road to force the PML-N government to seek a recount of last year's national polls, which he and all the mainstream parties allege was "historically rigged" to enable the incumbent government to come into power.

Khan, who had for more than a year demanded and sought legal routes to seek a recount of four seats his party lost as a test case to prove the result was rigged — in vain — is now calling a "decisive" movement to end an "unfair system". He warned the other day that it would be a mistake for the PML-N to assume his party would merely hold a peaceful protest and disperse.

The secular opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which has mostly observed what many of its detractors allege is "conspiratorial silence" since last year's polls to let the PML-N government complete its five-year term as part of a deal to not pull each other's government down under the agreed Charter of Democracy, has lashed out at the Sharif government's resort to Article 245, warning that it may be playing into the hands of the security establishment just to cover bases.

"The decision is pregnant with serious consequences for the people and the country as it means not only failure of the civil administration but also total suspension of the jurisdiction of the high courts.

Worst still, in practical terms it also means setting up of military courts which cannot be permitted," PPP spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said in a statement.

The general impression is that Sharif has burnt the midnight oil recently to mend fences with the military, and may be pitting it against the PTI to save his fortress. It is safe to assume that it may not be a safe bet.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Islamabad. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


 Rate this Article
Rates : 0, Average : 0

Post a Comment

Did you like this section? Leave a comment!
Your Name : Your Email Address :
Your Comment :
Enter Image Text:
No Comments Posted