View From The Neighbourhood: An election, a charter

The 2018 elections have been politically fractious, mired by terrorist attacks and the Pakistan Army and judiciary have loomed large and not always in the background.

Updated: July 23, 2018 12:08:25 am
Pakistan, Pakistan elections, Pakistan general election, Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan, Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan People Party, Indian express Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s call for a new Charter of Democracy is a proposal that deserves consideration, according to Dawn’s editorial on July 19. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)

With Pakistan set to vote in a general election on July 25, and deposed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam in Adiala jail in Rawalpindi, the question Zahid Hussain asks in the Dawn on July 18 is, ‘Has Imran Khan’s moment arrived?’ In 2013, after his loss, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief claimed the election was not a fair one, and “was willing to go to any extent to ensure mid-term polls. He failed.” This time, however, Khan may manage to scrape through, especially with the incumbent PML-N all but out of the race after Nawaz Sharif’s arrest. Most pre-poll surveys, according to the article, indicate that the PTI may well hold on to its stronghold in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, as well as make inroads into Sindh, Punjab (a PML-N stronghold and “the real battleground”) and even Balochistan. “With these likely permutations,” says Hussain, “the PTI certainly stands a chance of scraping through to the pedestal in what are being described as one of the most controversial elections in the country’s recent history.” But in what may be Khan’s best chance at Pakistan’s top political office “there’s still a long way to go before the final lap”.

The 2018 elections have been politically fractious, mired by terrorist attacks and the Pakistan Army and judiciary have loomed large and not always in the background. In this scenario, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s call for a new Charter of Democracy is a proposal that deserves consideration, according to Dawn’s editorial on July 19. The 2006 Charter was agreed upon by Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto as a blueprint for returning Pakistan to a multi-party democracy after the seven-year dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf. “While its recommendations are still widely applicable today, and many remain partially or wholly unimplemented, a new document could focus on updated proposals to address persistent problems and focus on the more current security and economic challenges that have become apparent over the past decade,” according to Dawn.

Such a charter could “seek to consolidate the constitutional gains made over the past decade while addressing new national challenges that have emerged over the past decade” such as “the threat of terrorism, militancy and extremism to a familiar but perhaps much bigger economic crisis on the horizon”. Despite the vitriolic political scenario, the editorial finds hope in Bhutto-Zardari’s proposition because “the PTI, PPP and PML-N have been able to find consensus on electoral reforms, and parliament was able to approve the historic Fata reforms, for example. Consensus on the core issues of democracy, fair play, security and economic stability may be possible.”

Rajnath in Dhaka
In an opinion article in The Daily Star, journalist Pallab Bhattacharya describes Rajnath Singh’s visit to Bangladesh for the second home minister-level meeting as going “beyond the trappings of a routine bilateral level meeting for three reasons”. First, on the security front, cooperation between the two countries “has reached new heights over the past year”. “New Delhi knows that Sheikh Hasina has delivered on the promises beginning with handing over of the top United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) leaders” and “Singh once again acknowledged India’s appreciation of the help and Sheikh Hasina government’s zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism”. The security agencies of the two countries have also enhanced cooperation. Second, on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees, “the essence of the Indian home minister’s view in the meeting with the Prime Minister was that New Delhi is working on two fronts at the same time: First, constructing prefabricated houses in Rakhine for Rohingya returnees and second, continuing to provide relief materials to help Bangladesh deal with the needs of the refugees in relief camps.” Finally, and perhaps most salient, “a big takeaway from Rajnath Singh’s visit was the move that touched the lives of the common people of Bangladesh: Opening of a new visa centre in Dhaka, India’s largest facility anywhere in the world”.

Oath or allegiance?
The massive majority that the K P Oli government secured in Nepal does give it a strong mandate. However, concerns over concentration of power and the erosion of institutions have also been triggered with the strong hold that the unified Communist Party of Nepal enjoys over the legislature and executive. The July 18 editorial of The Himalayan Times questions the decision of the government to have the oath of the newly-appointed ambassadors, including Neel Kantha Uprety to India, administered by Prime Minister Oli. Earlier, according to the editorial, ambassadors would be administered their oath by the chief justice in the presence of the king. Oli’s move, coming as it does after “bringing around 10 different agencies, including the Office of the Attorney General which is a constitutional body, under the Prime Minister’s Office does speak volumes”.

Its intent, according to the editorial, is “an extension of the plan to exercise all-out authority. Even if there is a need to administer the oath to an ambassador, the President can do so. An ambassador, after all, has to pledge loyalty to the country and its people and he or she can do so before the President as well in the form of oath”.

Introducing a weekly look at the public conversations shaping ideas beyond borders — in the Subcontinent. Curated by Aakash Joshi.

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