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How to end the current deadlock?

The basic pillars of a new consensus have to be universally accepted norms of constitutional and democratic rule  based on rule of law and transparent and clean governance – and shunning of petty political, institutional and personal interests.

By Shaheen Sehbai

It is now clear as a blue sky that Pakistan has entered a unique and dangerous phase visible in the present deadlock that has brought almost everything to a halt. The deadlock is in policies, governance, accountability, constitutional and democratic process and, biggest of all, in the economy. Topsy-turvy things are happening and no one knows where this situation will end.
Policy deadlock is visible because the new PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is not ready to take responsibility. He has repeatedly said that the ousted leader is still his PM and has visited the latter every time he has to make a decision. Governance is nowhere to be seen as bureaucracy is paralysed and the federal and Punjab governments are under a dark cloud of accountability, with ousted PM and Punjab CM already facing and even the new PM likely to face cases.
A constitutional deadlock persists as a disqualified, convicted PM is still treated by those heading the state as a ruler, with full protocol available to him at the doorstep of his commercial aircraft and all roads closed for his movement. Democracy is being twisted like a nose of wax as no one takes responsibility or resigns even though the highest courts of the land declare them guilty.
Accountability laws are being bent as if several sets of laws exist for the same crime, depending on the person who commits the crime. Parliament is not just dysfunctional but working against its own norms and ethics by voting to glorify leaders who have been convicted for corruption by the apex court of the land. A political party’s disqualified head, who abuses state institutions, is being supported by the federal and Punjab governments and is using public resources creating a situation for dangerous confrontation between the judiciary and law enforcement agencies.
Courts are being harassed and pressurised by show of street power. To top this chaos, the economy is tanking and the man who is supposed to be in charge is neither resigning nor performing his duty because he is facing the possibility of arrest in corruption cases. The enemies, in the region and abroad, are sensing a kill as Pakistan is failing to face the brunt with a house deeply divided.
The guardians of security are almost single-handedly fighting terrorism and also formulating the country’s policy narrative, not because they want to but by default as no one else is doing this job. Politicians are divided and political parties have no clue in what direction to move. One party wants fresh elections, others oppose it without calculating how new elections will be possible and what results they will produce. Fresh elections are not possible without finalising the just concluded census and using the data for new delimitation and electoral lists. Any general election for the next five years held on old data will be controversial and highly questionable.
No two leaders or parties are in a position to agree on an interim government or a national government to run the country until the next elections. In this larger picture, huge financial and economic challenges are soon going to force the country to default or beg international institutions for a financial bailout. World powers will ask for a matching price in terms of national security, compromises on regional strategic issues and cutting Pakistan to size.
This economic, administrative and social collapse could lead to redefinition of geo-strategic alliances, cancelling of important strategic projects and handing over country’s security and natural assets to outsiders. Is the country’s political, military, judicial and intellectual leadership capable of grasping this larger picture and find an agreed solution? A new national consensus is needed now if we have to survive.
The basic pillars of this new consensus have to be universally accepted norms of constitutional and democratic rule based on rule of law and transparent and clean governance and shunning of petty political, institutional and personal interests.
Are we ready?



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